MSPs have passed an amendment to controversial gender reform legislation aimed at quelling concerns it will impact on the Equality Act.
Concerns had been raised that changes brought in by the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill could impact on women and girls, particularly as it relates to single-sex spaces.
During stage two proceedings of the Bill on Tuesday, MSPs approved an amendment from Labour MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy which means the legislation has no impact on the Equality Act.
The Act allows for exemptions to be applied in allowing trans people to access single-sex spaces such as domestic abuse refuges or changing rooms.
Throughout the process, the Scottish Government has said the Bill would not change the current exemptions for single-sex spaces, but Ms Duncan-Glancy’s amendment places such an assertion on the face of the Bill.
A number of other amendments, which were narrower in scope to the Labour MSP’s but would have clarified the impact on the Equality Act, were not supported by Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison and rejected by members of the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee at its meeting on Tuesday.
Ms Duncan-Glancy said: “It’s Scottish Labour’s view that the Equality Act is reserved, cannot be altered by devolved legislation and therefore it is our understanding that these protections will and must still apply if the Bill passes.
“This is a matter of great importance for many people concerned about the current reforms and we recognise their desire for reassurance.
“This protection allows for the operation of single-sex spaces, works as an exemption to the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sex or gender reassignment but only when it’s a proportionate response to meeting a legitimate aim.”
Speaking in support of the amendment in the name of the Labour MSP, Ms Robison said the Bill would not impact on the Equality Act.
“However, I have had discussions with MSPs who are keen to see a provision in the Bill on the interaction with the 2010 Act,” she said.
“The amendment in name of Pam Duncan-Glancy provides, for the avoidance of doubt, that the Bill does not modify the 2010 Act, so I can support this amendment if the committee chooses to agree to it.
“It covers the entirety of the 2010 Act rather than specifying sections or elements.”
Ms Robison later added that an amendment expressly for the “avoidance of doubt” is “not something normally we’d have on the face of a Bill”.
She added: “However, the reason that I felt it was important to have this on the Bill was because of the discussions that we’ve just had – for absolute clarity… that it’s stating the obvious and the facts of the matter.
The amendment passed with five votes in favour, no votes against and two abstentions.
Similar changes tabled by Conservative MSP Rachael Hamilton and Labour MSPs Foysol Choudhry, Daniel Johnson, Carol Mochan and Pauline McNeill were rejected by the committee.
The controversial legislation will remove the need for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria for an application for a gender recognition certificate, as well as reducing the time required for an applicant to be required to live in their acquired gender.