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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Sex-swap vicar fights to stay wed

icWales
Lucy Ballinger, Wales on Sunday

SEX-SWAP vicar Dian Parry is launching a landmark court case against the Government.

The 66-year-old transsexual - who was formerly a bearded blacksmith called Bill from Croeserw in Port Talbot's Upper Afan Valley - is just a step away from being legally recognised as a woman.

But she won't take the final leap because under British law, it would mean annulling her 45-year-long marriage to wife Anita.

The grandparents - who still live together as a married couple - would then have to take new vows in a civil partnership ceremony, which were introduced just before Christmas.

This year they will aim to take the Government to the European Court of Human Rights in protest against the law, as they believe the Reverend's official change from man to woman should make no difference to their marriage.

On their website, The Christian Transgender Page, Anita said: "Things are now better. Dian has become even more considerate, tender, and placed. At the same time she has retained her self advocacy.

"While the physical side of our relationship has waned away and our relationship taken a new and different course; we have become like sisters."

Although the Parries are unable to directly comment on the case themselves, Emma Martin, from the pressure group Sanctity, which is pushing for change on the issue, spoke on their behalf.

"Before someone can get a full gender-recognition order they must annul their marriage," said Mrs Martin. "But this is like a physical break for people who have been married for years.

"Even if they did become civil partners it is not the same as being a married couple. We want there to be some kind of continuation of the marriage.

"Because of this the Parries are one of two couples taking the Government to the European Court of Human Rights, saying forcing people to annul a marriage in these circumstances is against the European Convention of Human Rights."

The Parries will argue the Government's failure to recognise their marriage breaches their right for respect for privacy and family life, the right to marry and prohibition of discrimination.

"Most marriages in which one of the couple undergoes gender- transference from male to female or female is a hell of a strain on the other partner," said Mrs Martin. "About 95 per cent of couples break up, there are very few who stay together.

"If they do, the marriage becomes more about being soulmates. But to have a full gender-recognition certificate or new birth certificate these couples must annul their marriages.

"This is not fair on the non-transsexual partner, as all they have done is support someone they love through an incredibly difficult time in their lives. For them the trauma is even worse than for the transsexual person."

The Government has stopped short of making same-sex marriages legal but recognising a marriage which took place before someone changed sex would effectively allow this.

Jo Sawyer, from equality organisation Liberty, said: "Although transsexuals can get interim recognition certificates, they would have to annul the marriage to get full recognition in everything.

"I think there are arguments about the right to stay married, particularly in marriages like this one, of long standing. There are very few other circumstances where the Government would say a family unit would have to break-up, so there are arguable grounds."

Roger Smith, director of human rights organisation Justice, said the legal challenge could take years.

"As you can't have a woman married to a woman, this is a backdoor challenge to civil partnerships," he explained.

"To take this case to the European Court of Human rights, they would have to go to the High Court and challenge the decision they should annul their marriage.

"Then they would have to take it as far as they can in the British courts, exhausting all avenues up to the House of Lords before getting a referral to the European Court of Human Rights.

"It will take several years and be rather expensive, but doing it would bring up the issues for public discussion.

"I don't think they have a brilliant chance of winning, but like in the Diane Pretty euthanasia case, it will have a impact by raising the issue."

lucy.ballinger@wme.co.uk

1 Comments:

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5:03 pm  

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