Former Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has demanded that a government minister explain how many sexes there are after putting forward amendments to erase non-binary people from a hate crime bill.
The politician, who has previously signed a declaration backing the exclusion of trans women from women’s spaces, used the Scottish parliament on Tuesday (16 February) to repeatedly press the SNP’s embattled justice secretary Humza Yousaf about sex and gender.
Lamont, who led the Scottish Labour Party between 2011 and 2014, tabled a series of amendments to Yousaf’s hate crime bill which sought to erase non-binary and intersex people and define sex as “a reference to being a woman or a man”.
The MSP also sought to erase language in the bill referring to people of “a different” sex and “any” sex, instead insisting on the use of “the opposite” and “both”.
Watch: Why do we still have a gender pay gap?
At a meeting of the Holyrood justice committee, Lamont said: “The purpose of my lodging these amendments was to ensure that we have an explanation from the cabinet secretary whether in fact the Scottish government believes there are only two sexes, and if there are not, what are those other ones.
“I do think think it’s essential… that we have that explanation.”
Justice minister explains why Scottish laws refer to ‘different sex’
Yousaf pointed out that the phrase “different sex” was one commonly used in other laws, such as Scotland’s equal marriage legislation, which refers to marriage as a union between “persons of different sexes or persons of the same sex”.
According to Herald Scotland, he said: “[There is] a need to have these debates, as uncomfortable as some of them may well be and sometimes.
“I could not support these amendments if they are brought forward and pressed by Johann Lamont, neither at this stage nor indeed if they are brought again [later].”
He added: “Different sex is a term that has been used… in legislation which actually Johann Lamont herself has voted for previously.
“I think consistency is important. I think precedent legislation is important.
“But also I think being inclusive is important too, and organisations such as the Equality Network, such as Stonewall Scotland, support the use of the term different sex because they believe it to be, and I agree with them, to be more inclusive, particularly of non-binary persons.”
Johann Lamont demands minister tell her how many sexes there are
Lamont continued to press Yousaf on whether “he believes there are two sexes”, adding: “I do hope that at some point we can hear the cabinet secretary confirming his view that there are two sexes.
“One of the things that has changed is that there is now a conversation about there being more than two sexes and that it is a spectrum.
“It’s not going to be defined and determined in this bill… but it is part of the debate that’s going on around this area.”
Meanwhile, a revised “free speech” amendment to the hate crime bill agreed by MSPs across parties will be published later this week, after a previous version was pulled over concerns it created a license for transphobia.
Conservative justice committee member Adam Tomkins said on Twitter: “The government, in consultation with other parties, have prepared a draft amendment on freedom of speech. This will be published later this week on the @SP_Justice webpages with an open invitation to comment on the draft.
“We will hold a (virtual) round table discussion, to which a range of witnesses and stakeholders will be invited, to discuss the draft with committee members and the cabinet secretary, on Monday 22 Feb. This will be public, broadcast, and on the record.
“I am delighted that we can do this with the maximum possible openness and transparency, and I thank the cabinet secretary, his officials, all committee members, and our clerks for their co-operation.”
Watch: Sienna Miller - 'The patriarchy is weakening'