ny man who wishes to be regarded as a woman, and likewise any woman who wishes to ‘be’ a man, can, under the provisions of the Gender Recognition Act, be issued with ‘a full gender recognition certificate’ so that ‘the person’s gender becomes for all purposes the acquired gender’. There are of course procedures that must be followed, but no surgery is required. You are what you want to be.
As those who read Robbie Low’s trenchant article in the April 2004 issue may remember, it was the confused, convoluted and contradictory interventions by the Bishop of Worcester during the third reading in the Lords, that caused the defeat of a crucial amendment, which would have given some protection to churches from the effects of this new law.
Schedule 4 of the new Act states,
A clergyman is not obliged to solemnise the marriage of a person if the clergyman reasonably believes that the person’s gender has become the acquired gender under the Gender Recognition Act 2004.
Much of what the bishop said was correct, but since the clearest signal he gave was that the CofE fully upholds this Act (and not one bishop supported the amendment) it is all the more important that the House of Bishops now give proper guidelines to clergy. There is no obligation on any person of an acquired gender to tell a minister that they are not what they seem. The responsibility rests with the clergyman. What support will he get from his bishop?
I have written to both my Ordinary and my Metropolitan. It now seems, six months after the Act was passed, (a) that the Act will come into force in April 2006 (not this year as first feared); (b) there will be further discussions with the government as to the ‘implementation of the legislation’, with the Bishop of Winchester as the lead bishop; (c) a code of practice will be issued to all clergy before that date.
Brethren, we must support our bishops, meaning we must ensure they come up with a coherent piece of theological thinking and a clear, consistent discipline. What content, for example, will they give to that crucial word ‘reasonably’? Make sure they do their work.