THE Welsh government is planning to mimic Scotland’s bid to make it easier for trans people to legally change gender and is calling for further devolution to give the Senedd the required legislative powers.
It comes after the UK Government blocked the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill by using a Section 35 Order for the first time, with Scottish Secretary Alister Jack reportedly “refusing to engage” with Holyrood ministers.
Gender recognition is currently devolved to Holyrood, but Jack used part of the Scotland Act to stop the gender reform bill from being given Royal Assent.
The LGBTQ+ Action Plan for Wales, published on Tuesday, has been described as an “ambitious plan with hope”, and sets out policy positions on conversion therapy, trans healthcare and other issues affecting the community.
While the 67-page document doesn’t set out exactly what kind of reforms they will seek to introduce, the Welsh government is set to ask the UK Government for further powers to bring in a conversion therapy ban and “support” trans people seeking to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).
The UK Government has said there are no plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act in England or Wales.
In the action plan, it sets out that the government will “seek the devolution of powers in relation to gender recognition” and they intend to “start negotiation with the UK Government” and trigger a request to devolve relevant legal competencies.
Welsh Labour First Minister Mark Drakeford penned a message at the beginning of the plan, where he describes the human cost of “confronting entrenched prejudice” as “enormous”.
He added: “The efforts of pioneers have secured really significant advances. But the need for constant vigilance remains.
“Discrimination and prejudice may no longer be legally or socially acceptable, but they have certainly not disappeared, nor is the effort to secure further advances over.”
Last month, Drakeford told the Senedd that Wales should have a gender self-identification system, similar to the one planned in Scotland, before the UK Government blocked it.
Hannah Blythyn, Welsh deputy minister for social partnership, said that progress should “never be taken for granted” as LGBT communities remain “under attack”.
“The plan is ambitious but with hope at its heart. We are absolutely committed to meaningful change for LGBT communities, creating a society and country where LGBT people are safe to live and love authentically, openly and freely as ourselves,” she added.
Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said the plan showed a clear commitment to defend and promote the rights and dignity of trans and non-binary people.
“The fact that this plan has been jointly developed by parties whose members make up two-thirds of our national parliament provides a strong basis on which to bring the plan’s commitments to life as practical actions on the ground in our communities,” he added.
“Tackling all forms of injustice is essential and together we can create a fairer society, promoting the rights of everyone in the LGBT community.”
Both Blythyn and Price are open members of the LGBT community, and the plan is part of the co-operation agreement between the two parties.
Davinia Green, director of Stonewall Cymru, welcomed the Action Plan and said it showed a “clear and positive commitment”.
She added: “This is an important part of the journey to creating LGBT inclusive society here in Wales, but not the end conclusion. We should not become complacent.
“If Wales is to become the leading nation in Europe on LGBT rights, tackling increasing hate crime, supporting inclusive RSE curriculum and removing healthcare barriers will be particularly important.”
Altaf Hussain MS, Welsh Conservative shadow minister for equalities, said that while he believes more needs to be done to support the LGBT community in Wales, further devolution of powers is “not the answer”.
He added: "We have seen the chaos that the SNP have brought about with devolved powers and now Labour ministers are seeking to do the same.
"Members of the LGBT community deserve our respect, support and understanding, they don't deserve to be used as a political tool by Labour ministers in their bid to secure more powers.”
It comes after UK Labour leader Keir Starmer faced criticism for comments he made relating to lowering the age of those who can apply for a GRC to 16 in Scotland and mixed messaging over the use of a Section 35 Order.
Labour’s only Scottish MP Ian Murray said that the two governments should "get round the table" to work out their issues, but MSPs who backed the reforms were furious at the intervention.
A UK Government spokesperson said: “Ensuring that LGBT people are treated equally is a priority for this government.
"In recent months we have committed to an inclusive ban on conversion practices, and we are taking steps to improve healthcare and eliminate new transmissions of HIV by 2030.
“We share the concerns that others have set out with proposed reforms to the GRC application process, particularly around safety issues for women and children. As a result of this, there are no plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act in England or Wales.”