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Supreme court will not hear appeal of man who gave birth

23 November 2020
Appeared in BioNews 1073

A trans man who gave birth has lost his last chance in the UK legal system to be registered as his child's father on the birth certificate. 

Freddy McConnell conceived his son after being issued a Gender Recognition Certificate under the Gender Recognition Act 2004, meaning that he is legally a man. However, after giving birth in 2018, McConnell was registered as his child's 'mother', and has been attempting to have this changed through the courts (see BioNews 1017 and 1045).

If McConnell had won his case, his child would have been the first person born in England and Wales to not legally have a mother. Under the Children Act 1989 a 'mother' has automatic parental responsibility for a child from the moment of birth and, as current laws stand no-one else, including the father, does. Because of this, the definition that people who have given birth are legally mothers – regardless of gender – has been upheld.

McConnell's application for appeal to the Supreme Court was refused because it did 'not raise an arguable point of law', supporting the view of the judges who previously heard the case in the High Court and Court of Appeal that the law as laid down by Parliament was clear, and that change would have to be made through legislation rather than the courts.  

In the appeal judgment Lord Burnett, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales said: 'The view that Parliament has taken is that every child should have a mother... Others may take a different view and in time may be able to persuade Parliament to take a different view.'

In the first hearing, Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division of the High Court of England and Wales, said there was a 'pressing need for Government and Parliament to address square-on the question of the status of a trans male who has become pregnant and given birth to a child'.

McConnell intends to apply to have his case heard at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. 

'The law around birth registration doesn't treat LGBT people equally on any level,' he told the Guardian. 'There needs to be a series of cases to address this or a change in the law. I feel I am too deep into this to stop now. I am going to keep fighting and I ask anyone who can contribute to this to reach out.'

Nancy Kelley, chief executive of LGBT rights charity Stonewall said 'All parents, including LGBT parents, deserve to be recognised for who they are and it's incredibly frustrating that the Supreme Court has missed an opportunity to progress equality.'

McConnell's story about parenthood as a trans man was told in a BBC documentary called 'Seahorse – The Dad Who Gave Birth' (see BioNews 1016).  

4 May 2020 - by Liam Davis 
A trans man who gave birth, has been unsuccessful in his latest attempt to be registered as his child's 'father' on the birth certificate.
26 September 2019 - by Jen Willows 
A trans man who became pregnant and gave birth has lost his legal challenge not to be named as the mother on his child's birth certificate...
23 September 2019 - by Dr Marieke Bigg 
In a world where our sex tells us nothing about our gender - where we can be anyone and be in relationships with anyone – how do we make sense of ourselves?
18 February 2019 - by Hugo Wolfe 
England's most senior family judge has invited the Health Secretary to review fertility laws after hearing the case of a trans man unable to be recognised as father on his child’s birth certificate...
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