Sex Change: Repercussions on Civil Registers and Filiation

The press is speculating that French courts may soon render an unprecedented decision concerning how civil registers and filiation may be affected in the event of changing one’s biological sex.

The Court of Appeals in Toulouse is currently hearing the case of a man who has been married since 1999, and who later had a sex change operation.  In 2011, his civil registration (birth certificate) was modified to reflect his gender “reassignment” as a female.

Before his male genital organs had been removed, the couple conceived a little girl, born in 2014, and the civil registry listed him as the child’s father.

According to the couple’s lawyer, Clelia Richard, they took legal action because the transgender woman (the biological father) wants to be “recognized as the mother on the child’s birth certificate.”

The court has already suggested that the couple could file for adoption since the law enacted on May 17, 2013 makes this a legal option for same-sex couples.

Nonetheless, the couple has continued their court battle, with their lawyer explaining that it is “unfathomable for her to adopt a child she had conceived.”

In 2016 their request was denied by the Magistrates’ Court in Montpellier, although in 2018 the status of “biological parent” was granted by the Appeals Court. However, this latter ruling was overturned by the Court of Cassation, on the grounds that according to French law only the terms “mother” and “father” are allowable on birth certificates.

In June, the Toulouse Court of Appeals is scheduled to deliberate on this case and deliver the final verdict. The State Prosecutor has already given an endorsement for mentioning the transgender person as a second “mother”. He advocated the best interests of the child so that the little girl can “live a family life in accordance with the gender identity of both parents.”

Indeed, if the court rules to allow the biological father to be named as the child’s second “mother”, (in addition to the birth mother), such ruling would be the first one in Europe. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has examined similar cases from Germany and the United Kingdom but has until now maintained that the parentage should be establised based on the parents’ original biological sex.

The scales of justice are hanging in the balance.  Will the biological data on the child’s birth certificate be upheld or obliterated? The court’s decision is expected to be rendered in September.

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