Spanish government approves new bill on transgender rights

MADRID (AP) — Spain’s Cabinet approved on Monday a new draft of a LGBTQ rights bill that if backed by parliament will allow people as young as 16 to change their gender freely, and those as young as 12 to do so with a judge’s authorization.

This version of the bill is very similar to the one that was initially presented by the government a year ago but was held up due to debates within Spain’s left-wing ruling coalition.

The bill was promoted by the left-wing United We Can party, the government’s junior partner. But there was some initial pushback from the Socialist Party of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez representing feminist criticism of self-determination on the grounds that it can lead to women being disfavored in some areas such as sports. That debate appeared to conclude when Sánchez removed a vice-president who was most strident in her criticism of the bill when he remodeled his Cabinet.

“We want to send a very clear message that the lives of LGBTQ persons matter,” said Equality Minister Irene Montero. “Today we again place ourselves in the vanguard of LGBTQ rights.”

If the bill is approved by lawmakers as drafted, all Spanish nationals above 16 will be able to change their gender and name by simply stating their desire to do so twice within a period of four months. Previously, applicants needed a diagnosis by several doctors of gender dysphoria, which is the psychological condition of feeling a mismatch between one’s biological sex and gender identity.

Teenagers between 14 and 16 will be able to apply for these changes with parental permission or by going to a judge if there is disagreement among them. A court’s involvement is mandatory in applications for those between 12 and 14, and children under 12 are only allowed to register a new name but not to switch their gender.

One change to the original draft is the inclusion of the right for non-Spaniards residing in Spain to change their name and gender in documents issued by Spanish authorities if, Montero said, “their rights are not guaranteed in their home countries.”

Spain’s General Council of the Judiciary gave its approval to the law but had recommended that the age for teenagers to freely change their gender be raised to 18 years, the age of adulthood in Spain. That recommendation was ignored.

Madrid’s Pride Week, one of the biggest LGBTQ celebrations in Europe, begins on Friday.