In March 2008 the High Court declared that certain sections of the Civil Registration Act 2004 are incompatible with the obligations of the State under the European Convention on Human Rights to respect the private life of individuals as the legislation does not provide for a process to recognise the acquired gender of transgender persons. The Gender Recognition Advisory Group (GRAG) was established in 2010 to advise the Government on the legislation required to give legal recognition to the acquired gender of transgender persons. The Group engaged in a public consultation exercise which provided organisations and individuals with the opportunity to contribute their comments and proposals. The Report of the Group, which recommended a scheme for the legal recognition of transgender persons, was approved by the Government on 12 July 2011, and was subsequently published on 14 July 2011. Since the publication of the Report, the Department has been working on developing draft Heads of a Gender Recognition Bill. In this context, it has engaged in discussions with the relevant medical health professionals and with representatives from interested NGOs.
Given the legal complexities involved in relation to some of the GRAG recommendations relating to the marital and civil partnership status of individuals, in March 2012 the Department sought advice from the Office of the Attorney General, which in turn sought the legal opinion of external counsel on these issues. The formal opinion of the Attorney General was received in December 2012 and is currently under consideration by officials in this Department with a view to progressing the draft Heads of the Bill. There are a range of complex and sensitive issues involved in this proposed legislation to give legal recognition to the acquired gender of transgender persons. I have requested the Oireachtas Committee on Education and Social Protection to consider the provisional draft Heads of Bill once they are completed. I feel that the Committee can make a very positive contribution to the preparation of the legislation and I hope that the appearance before the Committee can be scheduled before the summer. I believe this approach should greatly assist the drafting of the legislation and its progress through the Oireachtas. When the Oireachtas Committee has discussed the provisional draft Heads of Bill, I will be in a better position to give a timeframe for the introduction of the legislation.