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Keir Starmer Wants To “Modernize” Trans Laws But Thinks 16 Is Too Young To Change Gender

UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer believes 16-year-olds are too young to legally change their gender.

Starmer voiced “concerns” about the Scottish government's reforms to the process, citing a potential impact on UK-wide equalities law. However, he stopped short of backing a challenge to the Holyrood legislation, something UK ministers are considering.

The SNP's Westminster leader, Stephen Flynn, said any move to block the bill passed by MSPs would be “an outrage.” The Scottish government has said it will “vigorously” contest any challenge.

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, passed by MSPs, removes the need for people to get a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria before starting the change process. It also drops the age limit to 16, and cuts the amount of time the process takes from two years to a matter of months.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Scottish Labour supported the reforms, and almost all of its MSPs voted for the finalized bill.

But Sir Keir told the BBC's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, “I have concerns about the provision in Scotland, in particular the age reduction to 16 and, in particular, the rejection of our amendment in relation to the Equalities Act.”

Pressed on whether you are old enough at 16 to decide to change gender, he replied: “No, I don't think you are.”

Sir Keir also told the program a respectful debate was needed on the issue and said he believed it was currently being treated as a “political football.” Asked to clarify his position, the Labour leader replied: “Modernize the legislation to take out the indignities.”

The UK government is considering challenging the legislation, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak saying it is “entirely reasonable” for ministers to examine the potential legal impact of the bill on the rest of the UK.

Sir Keir would not be drawn on whether he would back a challenge, saying he wanted to wait and see what UK ministers decided to do. The UK government is currently considering legal advice about whether to use its powers to block the bill from becoming law. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke during a visit to Scotland last week about the concerns he has over the changes it would enact.

BBC Scotland understands a decision may be announced on Tuesday or Wednesday.

UK Transport Secretary Mark Harper was also asked about the gender self-identification laws being changed in Scotland. He said ministers were awaiting “detailed analysis” of how Scotland's gender law would affect UK legislation.

Mr. Harper told the BBC, “We are not proposing to make those changes for England, but what we have to do is make a decision about whether that legislation impacts on legislation elsewhere in the UK. One of those pieces of legislation is the Equalities Act. That is why we need a detailed analysis of that, and that is the information the government needs before it can take a decision.”

Mr. Harper added that transgender people had received abuse and their rights should be respected but women also had concerns about risks to their safety. The minister also described criticism of the author JK Rowling, who has condemned the legislation in Scotland, as unfair.

Making it easier to legally change gender has been one of the most contentious issues to come before the Holyrood parliament. It has exposed sharp divisions within all the major political parties and prompted the biggest ever rebellion in the SNP since the party took power.

Those divisions within parties are underlined by the stance Sir Keir Starmer has now taken against extending the right to switch gender to 16 and 17-year-olds. The official position of the Scottish Labour Party was to support that change, albeit that some of their MSPs refused to back the bill at the final stage.

Equalities spokeswoman Maggie Chapman said: “Starmer is ignoring the views of the vast majority of the Scottish Parliament, including the Labour MSPs who rightly backed the bill. A lot of people in Scotland will never forgive him if he lines up with the Tories to block what is a small but important step for equality.”

Scottish actor Brian Cox, 76, also spoke in favor of the legislation but said he was unsure about 16-year-olds being allowed to change gender.

“I'm very, very proud of Scotland for doing the gender identification act, because I think that's long needed and it's a debate that has to happen,” he told Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg“And I do question the 16 thing, but that's my own personal feeling, but I do feel we need to address that and I think that's absolutely right.”

He also said he did not like the way JK Rowling was treated over the issue as she was “entitled to her opinion.”

Read related myGwork articles here:

Trans Women Are Women, Says Keir Starmer In Call For Legal Reform

Keir Starmer Backs "Inclusion of Trans Women Except in Specific Circumstances" in Women's Spaces

MP Rosie Duffield Wants Meeting With Sir Keir Starmer Over Transgender Debate

Labour’s Keir Starmer Doubles Down On Vow To Reform Gender Recognition Act And Introduce Self-ID For Trans People

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