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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 28 Jan 2015

Vol. 237 No. 5

Gender Recognition Bill 2014: Second Stage (Resumed)

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell is in possession with two minutes remaining.

I welcome the Minister of State back to the House. Once again, it is my pride and honour to be able to address him on this subject.

None of us can know what those who are transgender go through. It is an issue I regard as very close to my heart. While it is expertly informed by the report of the gender recognition advisory group and the report of the Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection, the Bill falls well short of what is needed. It reveals a cautious and ultraconservative approach to gender identity recognition and is very out of step with current academic research and, more importantly, the lived experience of transpersons and their families. It betrays a basic ignorance of what gender identity is and how early in life some people become aware that the gender assigned to them at birth is out of synch with their own gender identity. The requirement that a person applying for a gender recognition certificate be single puts married transpersons in the unenviable dilemma of having to chose between legal gender recognition and their marriage. Forced divorce is morally and socially undesirable and sets a dangerous legal precedent. I hope that as the Bill moves though the Oireachtas, the requirement is either omitted altogether or amended following the referendum on same-sex marriage in May.

The requirement that applicants must provide certificates from their primary treating medical practitioners certifying based on medical evaluation that they have transitioned or are transitioning to their preferred gender does not respect their dignity. Indeed, one young man who met with a group downstairs the last day we were here pointed out that he was four years waiting for a medical practitioner to assist him with his request. It defies logic that a transperson would be required to engage the services of a medical practitioner for what is in essence a legal process with no medical outcome or implications. In applying for a gender recognition certificate, a transperson is simply requesting that his or her self-identified preferred gender be legally recognised. In case I am missing something, can the Minister explain why some who are making an application for a legal document must undergo medical scrutiny, diagnosis or assessment? For a start, how can any medical expert determine whether a person has self-identified his or her gender identity or not? Surely, it is an intensely private decision that we have all made regardless of what it states on our birth certificate. Let us not forget that every single one of us identifies as self-determining our gender. I am not a man because that is what it says on my birth certificate, I am a man because I was socialised and reared in a particular way and I am a man because that is how I identify myself.

I am afraid the Senator is way over time. I ask him to conclude.

With all due respect to the Chair, there are very few people who have opted to speak on the Bill, which is probably the most important one to come before the Oireachtas in the current session. I ask the indulgence of those who wish to speak on the matter.

My understanding is that all Members are entitled to five minutes. Senator Craughwell had two minutes left to speak at the outset and it is now three and a half minutes since he commenced. I have given him a certain amount of indulgence.

We can take it that I lost 30 seconds the last day and lost 30 seconds today.

I have given the Senator three and a half minutes.

I ask for a little bit of liberty.

The Senator has had three and a half minutes. I agree with what he is saying but that is the ruling of the House. It is nothing personal.

I will conclude as quickly as I can. The point I am trying to make to the Minister is that the drafters of the Bill have confused the notion of gender identity with the medical transition.

There is no need for both. I hate when I am thrown off my line of thought. I only have another four pages to go. I will meet with the Minister of State and I will outline these things.

On the medical side of things, we need to step back from this. Nobody takes the decision to change gender or to seek gender recognition lightly. We must try to make it as simple a process as possible. Why the hell we need a psychiatrist and an endocrinologist is beyond me. I ask the Minister of State to look at that part and maybe remove this requirement. I have much more to say and the Minister of State and I can discuss it over a cup of coffee. It is regrettable that I cannot say it with so many people here depending on their position being put forward by somebody who has difficulty himself in understanding the process. I am trying to do the best I can for the people who deserve this Bill, who want this Bill and who badly need it to pass. They need it to pass with a little more humanity and more understanding than is currently in it. I thank the Chair for his understanding.

Not at all. Five and a half minutes, just for the record. I call on Senator Moloney, who has five minutes.

I hope that is not a sexist thing.

I understand the precedent that can be created. Not to worry.

I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House to take this Bill. I welcome to the Visitors Gallery many of my newfound friends, with whom I have met over the last year or so.

The Yogyakarta Principles postulate that:

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. Persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities shall enjoy legal capacity in all aspects of life. Each person’s self-defined sexual orientation and gender identity is integral to their personality and is one of the most basic aspects of self-determination, dignity and freedom. No one shall be forced to undergo medical procedures, including sex reassignment surgery, sterilisation or hormonal therapy, as a requirement for legal recognition of their gender identity. No status, such as marriage or parenthood, may be invoked as such to prevent the legal recognition of a person’s gender identity.

That is why we are here today. I want to pay tribute to Dr. Lydia Foy and her legal team and to groups such as TENI, LGBT Noise, Amnesty International and the Equality Authority. I am sorry if I have left anyone out. Many transgender people struggle with social acceptance and it is not an obscure fact that transgender issues are loaded with stigma, prejudice and discrimination. It is crucial that their voices be listened to. "Rights are only won by those who make their voices heard", according to Harvey Milk, a civil and human rights leader.

It is time that Ireland conformed to the European Convention on Human Rights, ECHR, and removed the legal impediments that hinder recognition of our transgender people. Transgender persons need to feel that they are accepted in schools and the workplace and to enjoy basic citizen's rights. Ireland is the only European country that does not have legal gender recognition legislation. The majority of transgender people cannot obtain legal documents under their appropriate name and sex. The small numbers who have legal access to gender recognition still face difficulties in obtaining these important documents. Countries that do not allow legal gender recognition or have highly restrictive laws or regulations for changing name and sex, violate fundamental human rights obligations as stated by the ECHR. Up to now, Ireland has been one of these countries, despite a High Court ruling in 2007 that found the State in breach of its positive obligations under Article 8 of the ECHR. I commend the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, and the Minister of State on bringing forward this legislation. They both put a lot of work into it.

I was very concerned about the request by transgender organisations to have the age at which one can access surgery without parental consent reduced to 16 years. I voiced my concerns at the Oireachtas committee meeting and at subsequent meetings with members of TENI and people who are transgender. However, I now have a very open mind on the matter, having met and spoken at length with members. I have met some lovely people over the last year who just happen to be transgender. It does not matter to me whether or not these people are transgender. They are just very nice and reasonable people who are fighting for the rights of all transgender people who wish to have legal recognition. The Oireachtas committee recommended that the age be reduced to 16 and I supported that at the Oireachtas committee meeting.

I recently received an e-mail from a person and I want to advise the House of what was said in this e-mail. It stated:

The implications of parts of this Bill, not always indicated, are fairly gruesome, horrific and destructive of the human person. Has any thought been given to the future welfare of society as a result of the proposals laid out in this Bill?

The only gruesome thing about this Bill is this e-mail. Does this person really believe that people choose to be born like this, to be born in the wrong body? Do they expect that such people should go through their whole life living a lie to themselves, their families and the community, just so that they do not upset anyone? Do they not realise how hard it is for transgender people to speak out and take the necessary action to live their lives true to themselves? This is not something that suddenly comes on at the age of 15, 20, 30 or 40. It is something they are born with. They instinctively know, from the moment they pick up that first doll instead of a ball, or vice versa, what and who they are. By the age of 16, they are well aware of what they want for their future. If anyone is in doubt, like I used to be, they should spend some time with these wonderful people and they will see for themselves that transgender people are just normal people like everyone else. Transgender people are not any danger to the future welfare of society, as this e-mail suggests.

Regarding forced divorce, we may be caught in a chicken and egg situation. If we put legislation forward now stopping people having to get a divorce, we may be pre-empting the outcome of the forthcoming referendum. However, what can we do for these people? They are in a family situation and they want to stay married. We need to discuss this. Do we wait for the outcome of the referendum and if it is passed by the people of Ireland, will this solve the situation? Will we need to come back and amend this legislation so that these people do not have to go through a divorce situation? I welcome the Minister of State's views on the matter.

We discussed the situation of the under-16s at length at the Oireachtas committee, but like that, we felt that under 16 was very young. We must, however, also take cognisance of the fact that under-16s have many difficulties in school when it comes to participation in sports and so on.

I am getting the "wind up" signal from the Chair. Like Senator Craughwell, I have a lot to say and I would not mind meeting with the Minister of State at some stage. We can have a joint or a cross-party meeting, or however the Minister of State would like to arrange it. There are many issues I would like to discuss personally with him on this matter.

I thank the Senator for her comments. The Chair did give her latitude.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House and am glad to participate in this debate. Sinn Féin initially welcomed the publication of this Bill because, like many people, we saw it as at least a step forward, but we have clear reservations about elements of the Bill and we do not believe it goes far enough. Sinn Féin published a comprehensive Bill on this issue some time ago, which would have better met the requirements for trans people and would have dealt with many of the difficulties we see in this Bill.

The Bill in its current form is so narrowly drafted and so unnecessarily restrictive that many trans people will not be able to avail of the pathway to recognition that it sets out. The Bill in its current form will breach various provisions of the ECHR. If the Government does not want to see the State back before the European courts defending its policies on gender recognition procedures, it would do well to take on board the criticisms being put forward by trans people, by advocacy organisations, by political parties and by representative groups who are genuinely concerned and who are raising genuine issues, which I hope the Minister of State will take on board.

Sinn Féin will be putting down comprehensive amendments on Committee Stage to improve this Bill. I hope we can have a genuine and constructive debate on how to improve the Bill to meet the concerns of trans people and their representative groups. We will work with Independent Senators and others in doing that.

On the issue of marriage and civil partnership, Sinn Féin is completely against any requirement that a person must be single to have their gender recognised and, further, that they would be required to seek a divorce to have the paperwork to accurately reflect their gender. Persons of diverse gender identities should enjoy legal capacity in all aspects of life. No status such as marriage or parenthood should be invoked by the State to prevent the legal recognition of a person’s gender identity.

We noted the former Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, urged countries to remove all restrictions for married applicants in gaining recognition. Divorce in Ireland is subject to more restrictive and demanding conditions than in other jurisdictions. This can only be altered by an amendment to the Constitution. It may not even be possible for happily married applicants to satisfy this requirement to be living apart to access divorce, as the term ‘‘living apart’’ refers to the mental and physical state in which both people are living genuinely separate lives. This means the only way for some happily married applicants to get a divorce would be to commit perjury before a court. It is unconscionable to expect people to do that. We also have further questions regarding the constitutionality of the proposal and feel it may breach Article 41.1° of the Constitution. Other jurisdictions have managed to address this issue. Accordingly, it is not beyond the Oireachtas to do the same.

In the Government’s Bill, a primary treating medical practitioner, defined as a person’s primary treating endocrinologist or psychiatrist, is required to confirm the person has or is transitioning and that there must be a medical evaluation of an applicant. We share Transgender Equality Network Ireland’s view that this is diagnosis by any other name. We do not believe such a restrictive and unnecessary provision has a place in law. Our view is that trans persons are best placed to understand and identify their own gender. This is not to mention the fact that trans health services are nowhere near sufficiently resourced. The Bill places emphasis on a medical opinion despite the fact that the Health Service Executive, HSE, has no clear pathway for trans health care.

We are deeply disappointed this Bill does not contain a pathway to legal recognition for those under 16 years of age. These are among the most vulnerable people in the trans community. The Bill in its current form does not address or deal with the important issues of people with non-binary identities and those who define themselves as intersex. We will be raising all these matters outlined through amendments as the Bill progresses. Due to the importance of this legislation, maybe Sinn Féin, Independent and Fianna Fáil Senators could put down joint amendments rather than having individual ones with varying nuances, in turn allowing for a robust debate with the Minister of State. I hope he will take on board not just the views of Oireachtas Members but of the transgender community and its advocate organisations to have a Bill that will deliver the equality we all want for trans people.

I welcome all visitors to the Gallery and I am delighted to speak on the Gender Recognition Bill 2014, which is long overdue. We often hear criticism of what Europe does to us, not what it does for us. Dr. Lydia Foy’s fight over the past 21 years at the European Court of Justice for gender recognition has done a great service to the State. Hopefully, this Bill will do more service. Other Members have pointed out how the Bill is good but requires some improvements. That is what the Seanad is about. We have all received e-mails from people outside which have educated us because we are not professionals on every aspect of the Bills on which we speak. Who better to educate us than the people themselves?

The reality for many transgender people in Ireland is that many are already beginning the process of transition before they reach the age of majority. Whether in this country or in British facilities such as the Tavistock Centre in London, young Irish people are increasingly seeking out pathways that address the medical aspects of their self-identified gender before the full onset of puberty. The term "preferred gender" is not meant to imply that gender identity is an optional choice for people.

However, without formal legal recognition to accompany their medical transition, trans youth in Ireland are vulnerable. Where a young person's outward manifestation of gender does not match the sex marker on their official documentation, that individual constantly faces the possibility of difficulties in life with the accompanying dangers of verbal and physical violence. Will the Minister of State examine the age issue around this legislation?

As legislators, we need to take account of the Yogyakarta Principles, particularly No.18b, namely that we take all necessary legislative, administrative and other measures to ensure that no child's body is irreversibly altered by medical procedures in an attempt to impose a gender identity without the full, free and informed consent of the child in accordance with the age and maturity of the child and guided by the principle that in all actions concerning children, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration. In countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany and Belgium, policymakers and public health practitioners are increasingly recognising that earlier medical intervention can be important for the physical and mental health development of some trans youth.

On the single status provision in the Bill, I received an e-mail from an individual who informed me the Bill’s measure requiring transgender people to divorce is a troubling and unnecessary requirement by asking people to choose between getting recognition and protection for themselves and their true gender and their families. I know the gender recognition certificate does not change responsibilities regarding parenthood, for example, as it leaves it the same and is not retrospective. Will the Minister of State, however, comment on that aspect when he is summing up?

I compliment the Minister of State on bringing this long overdue legislation forward. It is a significant advancement in this area. As I said earlier, the Seanad is here to make Bills better. Hopefully, on Committee Stage, after listening to those whom the legislation addresses, we can make it a better Bill.

I was anxious to make a contribution, albeit a relatively modest one, because, primarily, on our side of the House the two contributors from Fianna Fáil were the female members of our parliamentary party. I want to ensure the message does not go out that this was a gender-based contribution only and that, in fact, the contributions of both of my distinguished party colleagues reflect the overall views of the Fianna Fáil Party on this legislation.

They punch above their weight.

Absolutely. The substance and depth of both contributions exceeded anything I can bring to this debate. I kept thinking that it must be unimaginable for someone to become aware of being born in the wrong body. I commend the Government on this initiative, which we support. I also support much of what Senator Cullinane said. The Bill is inherently flawed in several areas. It is very important that the Minister of State take account of the Committee Stage debate, apart from the thrust of the contributions here which considered the Bill in its totality. We need to get it right in the interests of those lobbying for it, towards whom it is directed.

Various issues have been raised. It seems to me unacceptable that one would have to divorce in order to benefit from this legislation. The question of age is problematic. The debate at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection reflected the complexities of that aspect of the Bill and the Minister of State’s wisdom on this would be appreciated. I fully agree with the comments by Senators Moloney and Keane about e-mails. I saw those e-mails. There were not too many but the one referred to was particularly unchristian and inhumane and I am glad Senator Moloney read it into the Official Report. If that reflects any element of our society we have a much bigger challenge ahead of us than I thought. However, I believe the overwhelming majority of the people of Ireland understand the motives behind this Bill and why it is necessary to introduce it. Ultimately, we need to get it right and I hope the Minister of State will take cognisance of the specific points raised highlighting inherent flaws in certain sections of the Bill and that he will respond accordingly.

I welcome the Minister of State. As I was unfortunately absent for the commencement of the debate last week and did not expect to have an opportunity to speak on Second Stage my words may be ill-prepared and not fully thought out. I hope we will have an opportunity to engage more fully on Committee Stage.

I welcome the legislation and thank the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, for bringing it forward. I read some of her initial remarks and know that she has crusaded strongly and at some length for this and I welcome her intervention in it. The issues some previous speakers mentioned have been the subject of some of the queries brought to my attention, and I am sure to the attention of all Members of the House, by people throughout the country.

Mine is more a Committee Stage than a Second Stage presentation. The Minister of State has heard the arguments about medicalisation of identity and the pathway for 16 and 17 year olds. I will be interested in his initial response to that. This being the House where Ministers are generally open to persuasion and arguments are not made in a nakedly politically partisan fashion but more holistically, and because this is a Seanad Bill, I hope the Minister of State and his officials will consider it with a view to improving it, not as something to be rubber-stamped here. Amendments will be tabled and there will be a detailed Committee Stage debate and I ask that the Minister of State keep an open mind on the arguments we will make more fully on that Stage.

When I was a Member of the other House, and ran regular clinics, constituents brought all sorts of difficulties and problems to my attention, some capable of resolution, some not. Sometimes people sneer at the fact that Irish people are in such regular contact with their politicians and question the value of the clinics but over the years a sizeable minority of people came to discuss this issue with me. I will not name the towns where these clinics were held because I do not want people to be identified. Several transgender people came to me between ten and 20 years ago. They were in a hopeless position and I felt helpless. The law was so black and white then that it was almost impossible to bring about change. Even the language was difficult. It is great to be in position where hopefully we can not only respond to but also resolve difficulties.

We have to ensure that the legislation, which should be deemed historic, has a broad vision and is of use to the transgender community. I support the Bill but there are issues we must take up on Committee Stage. I am just beginning to address the concerns brought to my attention by people in my area and others who have doubts and serious concerns about aspects of the legislation. As a starting point and stepping stone it is very positive. It is realistic and humane. I hate to use the word progressive because it has become the prisoner of all sorts of causes but it is a positive step in the right direction. I look forward to greater engagement on Committee Stage.

The Minister of State is very welcome to the House. The transition from one gender to another is a very difficult issue for many people. One can only begin to imagine how difficult it is for them. Two experiences have brought this home to me. In 2010 I was involved in preparing a report on early school leaving for the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education. As part of that project we considered groups that were particularly at risk, one of which was LGBT people. I met some people who were making a gender transition or wanted to make the transition. I was shocked to realise that people aged 14 to 16 had been aware of this for a long time. It is very important that this Bill is before the House. We need to set these people free and support them in their search for what they feel is their proper gender. There are many issues we should tease out on Committee Stage but I support the thrust of the Bill and the principles underpinning it.

Another instance I became aware of concerns a girl, now aged 22, who has been trying to make a gender transition for a long time. She is getting testosterone injections. She has changed her name to a boy’s name. Her family refer to her as a boy, although her gender is still recognised as female. The lengths to which people must go to be understood struck me in this girl's case. She has a partner who does not live in the country. That partner is female and I took it initially that the girl was lesbian but no, she wants to be male.

When I mentioned the context of the early school leaving study, I should have mentioned that my experience there was the contemplation of suicide by the young person for not being understood. Dropping out of school was only minor compared to the big picture around identity. My overarching view is that one can never underestimate how important it is to have one's identity recognised.

This is going to come up time and time again. It comes up in the context of adoption and will come up in the context of same-sex marriage. It is absolutely critical to honour one's identity, to receive as much information as possible about that identity and not to hide it. I will reserve all concerns. I know there are many issues around the age at which this should happen and how much psychological and medical support should be in place, but I will hold off on those questions until Committee Stage.

I thank the Senators for their contributions, and also thank Dr. Foy. One thing that always hits me on first listening to people's real-life experiences in this area is how it has affected many of the citizens in our country. Too often, we try to put people into different boxes, but this has to be addressed. It is very much to our shame that it has taken so long - 21 years - for legislation to be proposed in either House. I pay tribute to the Tánaiste, who has taken this to heart and has campaigned to ensure there would be legislation during this Government's term of office and that we would leave a piece of legislation hopefully dealing with many elements of this.

The Tánaiste has said this is an important and overdue piece of legislation. It has been subject to extensive consultation and was the subject of pre-legislative scrutiny by the Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection. I thank all those who contributed to the whole process. I took time to read the evidence that was given at the joint committee. Great time and effort was put in by many people who expressed their views and told their own personal stories through that forum. Many members of the committee also put in a huge amount of time.

I believe the provisions of this Bill have evolved and progressed in recent years. Legislation in respect of gender recognition varies widely across the EU. The provisions in this legislation will be among the most progressive within the EU and indeed beyond it. Senator Bradford mentioned that the word "progressive" is used far too often but in this case, he should take into consideration what citizens of this country have gone through over 21 years and longer. This has been recognised for a long time and reports have been issued. Like the Senator, I have sat down in clinics and talked to people about this, and they expressed frustration that there was no legislation in place. It is important that we make sure there is legislation in place at the end of this term of office.

All the Senators' contributions were entirely genuine, but I would like to refer back to some of them. Regarding single status, the Bill requires that an applicant for gender recognition be single. The Tánaiste and I recognise that this is a matter of real concern for some people. It is a genuine concern which has been expressed by many Senators. While we recognise that, I would say that over my time in politics the speed of what we have put into our Constitution, from the fourth to the eighth amendment, has had unintended consequences. The referendum in May on same-sex marriage will allow us to address this and come back to it. The Tánaiste said that it is her intention to return to this as quickly as possible, provided that the citizens in their wisdom vote to allow for marriage equality, as I believe they will. The Tánaiste and myself accept that this has to be revisited once that referendum is over.

I recognise the problems mentioned by many Senators with divorce and people not wishing to get divorced. It is problematic and putting it into our Constitution has created further problems. An unintended consequences is that, under the legislation we are trying to bring forward, people who are in happy relationships will not be able to avail of the legislation until after the referendum takes place. I will work night and day once the referendum is passed to table an amendment that will reflect the result.

I fully acknowledge that the issue of the minimum age for legal gender recognition is difficult and sensitive. The Bill provides for applications from 16 and 17 year-olds with significant safeguards attached. It seeks to balance the right of such children with the need to protect their interests at a potentially vulnerable age. If the court feels it is appropriate, it can make an order that the consent of the parent or guardian is not required. Overall, the legislation provides that the court shall not make an order unless it is satisfied that it is in the best interests of the child.

I am satisfied that these provisions are appropriate and sensible. It is important to note that these arrangements are well beyond those in place in most other EU member states. In Denmark, which is held by some as a model of best practice in gender recognition, the minimum age is 18.

I have heard the stories of the people who have engaged with me on this. Senator Moloney read out an e-mail earlier which I wanted to comment on. Maybe I missed it and it came into my inbox. I have a tendency to send that type of e-mail straight to the trash. That is probably where it best belongs.

I think so too but I wanted to see it. That is what is going on now.

The application process for gender recognition certificates will have to be accompanied by a supporting statement from a medical professional who has experience of working with transgender people. However, it is crucial to recognise that the application process will not require any detail of care including the person's medical history or confirmation of a diagnosis. People will not have to confirm that they have been living in their preferred gender for a specific period prior to their application. The Tánaiste wanted to emphasise that in her contribution. The supporting statement will be based on a standard form, which will be available from the Department of Social Protection as part of the application process. It is worth noting that recent changes introduced by the Netherlands regarding gender recognition are similar to these provisions.

What is happening as regards the protection of transgender children in schools was not mentioned today. I have heard of those difficult situations and the choice parents have of sending children to different schools. The issues around transgender children in schools is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan. I am aware that the Tánaiste has facilitated a meeting about education, which was attended by Deputy Ruairí Quinn. I will work with groups to arrange that this is highlighted within education and that transgender children in our schools are protected and supported as much as possible. We need to work with the Department of Education and Skills on that and it would be worthy work. Perhaps a longer discussion could take place on this at the education committee.

I urge Senators involved in that committee to take that up and run with it. What happens sometimes in our schools to our children who are seen to be different by other children is very difficult. That is over a whole range of things.

Senator Cullinane said that intersex persons are not encompassed within the Bill. The Bill facilitates applications in relation to intersex. The Tánaiste confirmed this in her Second Stage speech. I suggest that the Senator should go back to that, given that it was covered by the Tánaiste - that is already rightly facilitated. Transgender people can already get passports, PPS numbers and driving licences. We have to ensure that continues and there are no hiccoughs over that. Representatives of TENI certainly highlighted that to me in one of the meetings I had with them.

We will have a longer discussion on Committee Stage and will have an opportunity to flesh out the issues raised in the two days of debate we have had in the House. Some Senators indicated they wished to meet me privately and flesh out those issues. I would be more than happy to do that. Sometimes we can do that better in a conference room than in open debate. As Senator Mooney said, this is not a party political issue; it is about everybody working together to get the best solution possible in the short amount of time we have.

I strongly feel the Bill represents a very progressive approach to meeting the State's obligations to the needs of transgender persons. The Bill is founded on a genuine commitment on the part of the Government to enable transgender persons to be recognised for all purposes in their preferred gender. At the core of the Bill is a fundamental change, namely, the opportunity for people to obtain birth certificates in their preferred gender. The Bill contains very significant advances on previous proposals and compares very favourably with the equivalent legislation in many other countries in Europe.

It is essential that the operation of this new legislation is carefully assessed over time and the annual reporting by the Minister will be very important to elements of that assessment. That is a very important statement by the Tánaiste. As far as I can remember she also said on Second Stage that this must constantly remain under review.

This is a ground-breaking Bill, which the Tánaiste and I have supported very strongly. It has been needed for a long time. I look forward to further debate on Committee and Report Stages.

I pay tribute to this House on the manner in which the Bill has been welcomed and the very balanced comments and contributions given here. Over the coming weeks I look forward to working very closely with all Members of the House in trying to progress the legislation through the two Houses as quickly as possible. I thank Senators for their contributions and for listening to what I have had to say.

Before we reach Committee Stage, would it be possible to get a register of those medical practitioners who would be favourably disposed to working with this issue, given that the Minister of State is going to continue with that line? We do not want a situation like the man waiting four years-----

I thank the Senator for that. I am sure he will have every opportunity to expand on that contribution on Committee Stage.

It would be nice to have it before Committee Stage.

The Senator will have an opportunity to raise that and other issues on Committee Stage.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 3 February 2015.
Sitting suspended at 3.45 p.m. and resumed at 4.30 p.m.