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Gender-neutral passports knocked back by UK Supreme Court 

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom has ruled that the government has a right to refuse to issue gender-neutral passports, citing public interest concerns. 

The court said the gender of a passport applicant was “a biographical detail which can be used to confirm their identity”.

Campaigner Christie Elan-Cane, who claims to be non-gendered, had taken the case against the Home Office on the basis that the passport application process breached human rights laws by not allowing an “X” option, referencing both Articles 8 and/or 14 of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the British Human Rights Act.

In 2018, the High Court ruled in favour of the Home Office and in March 2020, the UK Court of Appeal confirmed the High Court ruling, finding that “there was no positive obligation on the state to provide an “X” marker in order to ensure the right of the Appellant to respect for private life.”

The Court of Appeal also ruled that there was no consensus yet among the Council of Europe on gender neutral passports and that there was no wide-ranging plan for gender neutral options in British government ID systems.

This week, Wednesday,the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed Elan-Cane’s appeal, with President of the Court, Lord Reed, saying that gender could be checked against birth, adoption or gender recognition certificates as part of confirming an applicant’s identity.

“It is therefore the gender recognised for legal purposes and recorded in those documents which is relevant,” he said, adding that “maintaining a coherent approach across government” was also a consideration

“There is no legislation in the United Kingdom which recognises a non-gendered category of individuals,” he said.

The Court ruled that legislation “across the statute book” assumes all people can be categorised in two sexes or genders – “terms which have been used interchangeably”.

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