Bellinger v Bellinger: HL 10 Apr 2003

Transgender Male to Female not to marry as Female

The parties had gone through a form of marriage, but Mrs B had previously undergone gender re-assignment surgery. Section 11(c) of the 1973 Act required a marriage to be between a male and a female. It was argued that the section was incompatible with the claimant’s human rights.
Held: Mrs B, a trans-sexual female who had been born and registered as a male at birth, could not validly contract a marriage with another male. Trans-sexual people are to be distinguished from inter-sexual people. Society and the law had moved on since the case of Corbett, and the case of Goodwin had superceded the CA decision in this case. However, though the law needed to be changed, it was not for the House to do so. That would require wide ranging changes, involving matters which were quite outside the court’s powers. The court granted a declaration of incompatibility for section 11(c) but no more.
Lord Nicholls said: ‘It may also be that there are circumstances where maintaining an offending law in operation for a reasonable period pending enactment of corrective legislation is justifiable. An individual may not then be able, during the transitional period, to complain that his rights have been violated. The admissibility decision of the court in Walden v Liechtenstein (Application no 33916/96) (unreported) 16 March 2000 is an example of this pragmatic approach to the practicalities of government.’

Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, Lord Hope of Craighead, Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough, Lord Scott of Foscote, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry
[2003] UKHL 21, Times 11-Apr-2003, [2003] 2 AC 467, [2003] 2 All ER 593, [2003] Fam Law 485, 14 BHRC 127, [2003] 2 WLR 1174, 72 BMLR 147, [2003] 2 FCR 1, [2003] HRLR 22, [2003] 1 FLR 1043, [2003] UKHRR 679, [2003] ACD 74
House of Lords, Bailii
Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 11(c), European Convention on Human Rights 8 12
England and Wales
Appeal fromBellinger v Bellinger CA 17-Jul-2001
Transgender Male may not marry as Female
Despite gender re-assignment, a person born and registered a male, remained biologically a male, and so was not a woman for the purposes of the law of marriage. The birth registration in this case had been correct. The words ‘male and female’ in the . .
CitedW v W (Physical inter-sex) FD 31-Oct-2000
A party to a marriage had ambiguous physical characteristics. The respondent’s sex at birth was uncertain, and that the parents chose to register her as a boy. As a child and a young woman she dressed as, appeared as, and acted as female. At 17, she . .
CitedCorbett v Corbett (otherwise Ashley) FD 1-Feb-1970
There had been a purported marriage in 1963 between a man and a male to female trans-sexual.
Held: Because marriage is essentially a union between a man and a woman, the relationship depended on sex, and not on gender. The law should adopt the . .
CitedRegina v Tan CA 1983
Tan and others were accused of keeping a disorderly house having advertised: ‘Humiliation enthusiast, my favourite past time is humiliating and disciplining mature male submissives, in strict bondage, lovely tan coloured mistress invites humble . .
CitedS v S-T (Formerly J) CA 25-Nov-1996
The parties had gone through a form of marriage, but the purported husband was many years later revealed to be a female to male transsexual. The marriage had been annulled. There was now an application for ancillary relief.
Held: Ancillary . .
CitedRees v The United Kingdom ECHR 17-Oct-1986
The applicant had been born and registered as a female, but later came to receive treatment and to live as a male. He complained that the respondent had failed to amend his birth certificate.
Held: The court accepted that, by failing to confer . .
CitedCossey v The United Kingdom ECHR 27-Sep-1990
A male to female transsexual who had undergone full gender reassignment surgery wished to marry. The court held that despite the Resolution of the European Parliament on 12th September 1989 and Recommendation 1117 adopted by the Parliamentary . .
CitedSheffield and Horsham v The United Kingdom ECHR 30-Jul-1998
It is within a nation’s margin of appreciation to refuse to re-register birth details of people who had undergone sex-changes. Similarly it was not a human rights infringement not to allow post operative trans-sexuals to marry. However the court was . .
CitedGoodwin v The United Kingdom ECHR 11-Jul-2002
The claimant was a post operative male to female trans-sexual. She claimed that her human rights were infringed when she was still treated as a man for National Insurance contributions purposes, where she continued to make payments after the age at . .
AppliedHyde v Hyde and Woodmansee 20-Mar-1866
A marriage contracted in a country where polygamy is lawful, between a man and a woman who profess a faith which allows polygamy, is not a, marriage as understood in Christendom; and although it is a valid marriage by the lex loci, and at the time . .
At first instanceBellinger v Bellinger FD 22-Nov-2000
The test for what sex somebody was for the purposes of validating a marriage was the sex as decided and set out on the birth registration certificate. Though increasing recognition has been given to the complexities of gender identity over the . .

Cited by:
CitedCroft v Royal Mail Group Plc (formerly Consignia Group plc) CA 18-Jul-2003
The employee was a transsexual, awaiting completion of surgical transformation to a woman. The employer said she could not use the female toilet facilities, but was offered use of the unisex disabled facilities.
Held: The 1975 Act provides for . .
CitedAnufrijeva and Another v London Borough of Southwark CA 16-Oct-2003
The various claimants sought damages for established breaches of their human rights involving breaches of statutory duty by way of maladministration. Does the state have a duty to provide support so as to avoid a threat to the family life of the . .
CitedA v West Yorkshire Police HL 6-May-2004
The claimant was a male to female trans-sexual who had been refused employment as a police officer by the respondent, who had said that the staturory requirement for males to search males and for females to search females would be impossible to . .
CitedGhaidan v Godin-Mendoza HL 21-Jun-2004
Same Sex Partner Entitled to tenancy Succession
The protected tenant had died. His same-sex partner sought a statutory inheritance of the tenancy.
Held: His appeal succeeded. The Fitzpatrick case referred to the position before the 1998 Act: ‘Discriminatory law undermines the rule of law . .
CitedSheldrake v Director of Public Prosecutions; Attorney General’s Reference No 4 of 2002 HL 14-Oct-2004
Appeals were brought complaining as to the apparent reversal of the burden of proof in road traffic cases and in cases under the Terrorism Acts. Was a legal or an evidential burden placed on a defendant?
Held: Lord Bingham of Cornhill said: . .
CitedSecretary of State for Work and Pensions v M HL 8-Mar-2006
The respondent’s child lived with the estranged father for most of each week. She was obliged to contribute child support. She now lived with a woman, and complained that because her relationship was homosexual, she had been asked to pay more than . .
CitedWilkinson v Kitzinger and Another FD 12-Apr-2006
The petitioner intended to seek a declaration as to her marital status. She and the respondent had married in a civil ceremony in British Columbia in 2003. She sought a declaration of incompatibility with regard to section 11(3) of the 1973 Act so . .
CitedWilkinson v Kitzinger and others FD 31-Jul-2006
The parties had gone through a ceremony of marriage in Columbia, being both women. After the relationship failed, the claimant sought a declaration that the witholding of the recognition of same-sex marriages recoginised in a foreign jurisdiction . .
CitedSmith v KD Scott, Electoral Registration Officer SCS 24-Jan-2007
The prisoner claimed that his right to vote had not been re-instated despite a year having passed since the European Court of Human Rights had found that the withdrawal of that right for prisoners was an infringement.
Held: It was not possible . .
CitedIn re P and Others, (Adoption: Unmarried couple) (Northern Ireland); In re G HL 18-Jun-2008
The applicants complained that as an unmarried couple they had been excluded from consideration as adopters.
Held: Northern Ireland legislation had not moved in the same way as it had for other jurisdictions within the UK. The greater . .
CitedAB, Regina (On the Application of) v Secretary of State for Justice and Another Admn 4-Sep-2009
The claimant was serving a sentence of imprisonment. She was a pre-operative transgender woman, but held in a male prison. She sought review of a decision to refuse transfer to a women’s prison. The Gender Recognition Panel was satisfied that the . .
CitedRegina (Chester) v Secretary of State for Justice and Another QBD 28-Oct-2009
The claimant a prisoner detained after the expiry of his lfe sentence tariff as dangerous, sought a declaration that the refusal to allow him to register as a voter in prison infringed his human rights.
Held: Such a claim had already succeeded . .
CitedTimbrell v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions CA 22-Jun-2010
The claimant had undertaken male to female treatment including surgery and lived as a woman, though continuing to live with her wife. She sought payment of a pension at 60, but was refused. The regulations required a gender recognition certificate . .
CitedNicholas v Secretary of State for Defence CA 4-Feb-2015
The claimant wife of a Squadron Leader occupied a military house with her husband under a licence from the defendant. When the marriage broke down, he defendant gave her notice to leave. She now complained that the arrangement was discriminatory and . .
CitedNicklinson and Another, Regina (on The Application of) SC 25-Jun-2014
Criminality of Assisting Suicide not Infringing
The court was asked: ‘whether the present state of the law of England and Wales relating to assisting suicide infringes the European Convention on Human Rights, and whether the code published by the Director of Public Prosecutions relating to . .
CitedBala and Others, Regina v CACD 10-May-2016
The court was asked whether parties to a polygamous marriage recognised in Nigeria could be exempt thereby from a charge as co-conspirators because of s2 of the 1977 Act. The judge had held the marriage invalid after finding that the defendant was . .
CitedC, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions SC 1-Nov-2017
This case is about how the Department for Work and Pensions (the DWP), in administering our complex welfare benefits system, treats people with a reassigned gender, and specifically whether certain policies conflict (1) with the Gender Recognition . .
CitedElan-Cane, Regina (on The Application of) v The Secretary of State for The Home Department and Another CA 10-Mar-2020
No right to non-gendered passport
The claimant sought judicial review of the police of the respondent’s policy requiring a passport applicant to identify themselves as either male or female. The claimant began life as a female, but, with surgery, asserted a non-gendered identity. . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Administrative, Family, Human Rights

Leading Case

Updated: 13 January 2022; Ref: scu.180697