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Individual human rights sometimes have to give ground to the wider public interest in coherent rules applying to all. In one such case, a transgender woman who objected to being called her children’s ‘father’ on their birth certificates failed in a test case bid to change the law.
The married woman, who was awaiting gender reassignment surgery, claimed that the certificates violated her right to privacy. The description of her as her children’s ‘father’, whilst also recording the female name which she had taken by deed poll, was said to reveal her transgender status for all to see.
She mounted a judicial review challenge after a registrar refused to record her as a gender-neutral ‘parent’, or ‘father/parent’, following the birth of her second child. The registrar’s insistence on using the word ‘father’ would be a permanent reminder of the man she never truly was, her lawyers argued.
In dismissing her case, however, the High Court emphasised the right of children to have the identity of their fathers accurately recorded. The certificates correctly stated that the woman was her children’s biological father at the moment of their birth. Whilst accepting that the woman’s human rights were engaged, the Court found that any interference with them was small and justified by the need to maintain a clear and readily understandable certification regime.