Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Uruguay: Bill that would allow change of name and gender in public documents approved by Senate

"Minors under 12 years of age will be able to change registered gender with parents' permission": That's the sensationalistic headline for an article in El País on the Uruguayan senate's approval yesterday of a bill that would allow transgender individuals to legally change their name and gender in all public documents.

"Transsexuals have won half a battle," said El País. A version of the bill would have to be approved by the South American country's House of Representatives in order to become law.

The most heated exchange during the debate came when opponents argued that it would open the door to same-sex marriage. Their argument was that since the bill does not require gender reassignment surgery as prerequisite for a change of identity in public documents, and since those who change their identity would be allowed to "exercise of all the rights inherent in their new condition" including marriage to a person of the opposite gender, it would result in marriages by couples with similar sexual organs.

Proponents argued that the bill was not a same-sex marriage bill and that, in any case, it would only apply to a small number of individuals for whom the bill would greatly improve their personal lives.

A last minute agreement did result in an amendment to the bill's language which requires that "minors under 12 [years of age] should have permission from their parents to initiate the process." The language was added in response to opponents who said that children as young as four would be able to have access to the law without their parents' knowledge or oversight.

If the bill becomes law, it would require a person seeking to change their public documents to go before Family Court and submit an evaluation proving that the person has had at least two years of conflict with his or her gender identity. According to AFP, the two year requirement would be waived for those individuals who have previously undergone gender-reassignment surgery.

A temporary panel would be created to work with the Family Court on specific cases for what is expected to be an initial surge of requests (the panel would disband later as petitions decrease and Family Court staff become better qualified to oversee the process).

It would also require that the Civil Registry discretely inform a future spouse of a partner's previous change in gender.

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