Battle for ‘X’ passports before Court of Appeal

The London Court of Appeal is hearing a case on behalf of human rights campaigner, Christie Elan-Cane, in regards to gender neutral passports.

Christie Elan-Cane has been campaigning for non-gendered passports for over 25 years and has given evidence to parliament for transgender equality.

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On behalf of this case, Clifford Chance commenced judicial review proceedings in 2017 challenging the lawfulness of UK Government’s passport policy, which requires that either an ‘M’ or ‘F’ gender marker appear on every UK passport.

Kate Gallafent QC has said that up to 1% of the population, that is about 63,000 people, may not identify as male or female and therefore the current practice is a breach of human rights.

She has also pointed out that there have been no security concerns pointed out by the Home Office in regards to this issue.

Christie Elan-Cane, who was born female but began transitioning after surgery, believes that people should have the choice to be non-gendered and have an ‘X’ passport.

Solicitors from Clifford and Chance as well as Kate Gallafent QC and Tom Mountford of Blackstone Chambers are working pro bono on the case, arguing that the current policy is inconsistent because border control allows foreign passports that are ‘X’ to enter the country.

They argue that the Home Office’s policy is in breach of Article 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights- the right to private and family life and absence of discrimination.

Speaking before the hearing, Christie Elan-Cane said: ‘Legitimate identity is a fundamental human right but non-gendered people are treated as though we have no rights.’

The Home Office has argued that issuing an ‘X’ passport would result in additional costs across the whole of the government.

They claim it would be a disproportionate burden since only a few would benefit from the change.

On behalf of the Home Office, James Eadie, argued that this policy does not interfere with rights under ECHR.

He maintained that if this policy breached Article 8: the right to respect for private life, it is justified by the need for an administratively cohesive system that would recognise gender, to maintain security, to combat identity theft and ensure safety at border control.

The judges in the Court of Appeal have reserved their decision and the ruling is not expected until the new year.

UK biometric passport. Image by Mike Rohsopht. Public domain via wikipedia.

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