Welsh Government to seek devolution powers to simplify gender recognition

The Welsh Government is aiming for Wales to be "the most LGBTQ+ friendly nation in Europe". Credit: Visit Wales

Ambitious aims to make it easier for people to legally change their gender by the Welsh Government.

In a bid to become the "the most LGBTQ+ friendly nation in Europe", the LGBTQ+ Action Plan aims to improve safety, education, housing, health and social care amongst the community, as well as "defend and promote the rights and dignity of trans and non-binary people".

However, the UK Government currently holds power over this area, but the Welsh Government said it would ask for "devolved powers in relation to Gender Recognition".

Mark Drakeford has previously spoken out about the issue and said that his government would seek the powers to introduce this legislation.

It comes as survivors of 'conversion therapy' are among those helping to advise the Welsh Government on banning the practices in Wales. The group of experts will include those from faith communities, the health and social care sector, as well as children and young people work alongside the LGBTQ+ community.

The First Minister said his government would seek the devolved powers from Westminster for Gender Recognition in Wales. Credit: PA

Discussing the Action Plan, Deputy Minister for Social Partnership Hannah Blythyn acknowledged the proposals were “ambitious but with hope at its heart”.

She added: “We have come a long way in the past few decades, but we cannot be complacent. Progress can and never should be taken for granted. LGBTQ+ communities remain under attack, with our hard-fought-for rights at risk of being rolled back around the world, including here in the UK.

“I’m proud that here in Wales LGBTQ+ rights are embedded in the Welsh Government’s Programme for Government commitments and the LGBTQ+ Action Plan is a commitment in the Co-operation Agreement with Plaid Cymru.”

It comes as the UK government recently blocked reforms on the gender recognition process passed by the Scottish Parliament with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon describing the decision by the government as a “full-frontal attack”.

She hit out after Scottish Secretary Alister Jack confirmed he would make an order under Section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998.

It is the first time the UK government has sought such an order, which will now prevent the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill from going forward for royal assent, and the move will only further increase tension between the Scottish and UK governments.

Given that Scotland does have greater devolved powers than Wales, this precedent makes it harder for the Welsh Government when it comes to seeking devolved powers in this area.

Lisa Power is a lifelong LGBTQ+ activist who co-founded the charity Stonewall and contributed to the development of the plan. She said: “In my view, Wales is a shining beacon in this area.

“Through the work I do internationally, I increasingly get comments from people who recognise Wales as a country trying to protect all of its citizens – and that absolutely includes LGBTQ+ citizens.”

The UK government recently blocked reforms on the gender recognition process passed by the Scottish Parliament. Credit: Pride Cymru

Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS explained: “This plan shows how we are working together to make a more just, fairer, tolerant Wales. Politics is about making a difference and improving the lives of the people you serve. Tackling all forms of injustice is essential and together we can create a fairer society, promoting the rights of everyone in the LGBTQ+ community.”

Whereas Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Equalities, Altaf Hussain MS, echoed the view of the UK Government and stated that devolved powers for Wales are "not the answer".

He explained: "While I firmly believe that more needs to be done to support LGBTQ+ people, the further devolution of powers is not the answer. We have seen the chaos that the SNP have brought about with devolved powers and now Labour ministers are seeking to do the same.

"Members of the LGBTQ+ community deserve our respect, support and understanding, they don't deserve to be used as a political tool by Labour ministers in their bid to secure more powers."

A UK government Equality Hub spokesperson said: “Ensuring that LGBT people are treated equally is a priority for this government. In recent months we have committed to an inclusive ban on conversion practices, and we are taking steps to improve healthcare and eliminate new transmissions of HIV by 2030.

“We share the concerns that others have set out with proposed reforms to the GRC application process, particularly around safety issues for women and children. As a result of this, there are no plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act in England or Wales.”

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