Britons cannot be gender neutral on their passports, court rules

The legal challenge over gender-neutral passports was launched by Christie Elan-Cane, who does not identify as either male or female (AFP via Getty Images)

Britons cannot identify as gender-neutral on their passports, a court has ruled.

Campaigner Christie Elan-Cane, who does not identify as male or female, lost a legal battle against the government over gender-neutral passports at the Court of Appeal on Tuesday.

Elan-Cane, who has fought for legal and social recognition for non-gendered identity for more than 25 years, believes the UK’s passport application process, which requires individuals to indicate whether they are male or female, is “inherently discriminatory”.

The issue was brought up on the election campaign trail when the Lib Dems said they would introduce gender-neutral passports.

There have been calls for an 'X' option on British passports for people who identify as gender neutral (Getty Images)

Read more: 'Gender-neutral' school uniform sparks protests

At a hearing in December, three senior judges were told that the Government’s current policy on gender-neutral passports is “unlawful” and breaches human rights laws.

But judges dismissed the appeal in a ruling on Tuesday.

Elan-Cane took the case to the Court of Appeal after a judicial review action was dismissed by the High Court in June 2018.

The appeal, which was contested by the Home Office, centred on the lawfulness of the current policy administered by Her Majesty’s Passport Office (HMPO), which is part of the government department.

It was argued that the policy breaches the right to respect private life, and the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of gender or sex, under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

In a statement after the judgment was handed down, Elan-Cane said the decision was "devastating".

The campaigner said: "It is bad news for everyone who cannot obtain a passport without the requirement imposed by the UK Government that they should collude in their own social invisibility.”

Non-gendered campaigner Christie Elan-Cane arrives at the High Court in October 2017. (Paul Davey / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Delivering the judgment, Lady Justice King said it was "obvious and indeed beyond argument" that the facts of the case concern Elan-Cane's private life.

"There can be little more central to a citizen's private life than gender, whatever that gender may or may not be," she said in the ruling.

"No-one has suggested (nor could they) that the appellant has no right to live as a non-binary, or more particularly as a non-gendered, person.

"Indeed, a gender identity chosen as it has been here, achieved or realised though successive episodes of major surgery and lived through decades of scepticism, indifference and sometimes hostility must be taken to be absolutely central to the person's private life."

Read more: High Court rules against gender-neutral passports

But she went on say that, while this case was limited to the issue of passports, "the driver for change is the broad notion of respect for gender identity".

Lady Justice King added that she accepted that "the passport issue cannot be reasonably be considered in isolation".

The court ruled that the HMPO's current policy did not amount to an unlawful breach of Elan-Cane's rights under human rights laws.

Ruling on the case in June 2018, a High Court judge said that although he was not at that time satisfied that the policy was unlawful, part of the reasoning for the decision was that a comprehensive review had not been completed.

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