Germany's top court orders third gender option on birth certificates

By Allen Cone
Germany's top court orders third gender option on birth certificates
A rainbow flag hangs in front of seat of the Berlin Senate on July 16 to celebrate pride week. The Federal Constitution Court ordered the creation of a third gender to classify intersex people. File Photo by EPA/Felipe Trueba

Nov. 8 (UPI) -- Germany's top court on Wednesday ordered the creation of a third gender category for people to use in legal classification, becoming the first nation in Europe to include the designation.

The Federal Constitutional Court wants birth certificates by the end of next year to allow for the option.


The court ruled "provisions of civil status law are incompatible with the Basic Law's requirements to the extent that the Civil Status Act does not provide for a third option -- besides the entry 'female' or 'male, allowing for a positive gender entry."

The court also ruled "the general right of personality also protects the gender identity of those who cannot be assigned either the gender 'male' or 'female' permanently. In addition, the current civil status law also violates the ban on discrimination to the extent that it rules out the registration of a gender other than 'male' or 'female.'"

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An intersex person, classified as neither man nor woman, filed the legal challenge after attempting to change their registered sex to "inter" or "divers."

Authorities originally rejected the person's petition, saying a child must be listed as male or female, or the section could be left blank. In 2013, Germany became the first European country to give parents that third option.

The judges ruled that the law doesn't define gender as binary, so the government cannot force citizens to leave the form blank.

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"The mere possibility of entering a further gender does not oblige anyone to assign themselves to this third gender," the court said in the ruling.

The court said it is up to the Senate to come up with a term.

On June 30, the German parliament legalized same-sex marriage.

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The Transgender Europe and other German rights groups applauded the "groundbreaking" judgement.

"There are more than two genders and sexes," they said a joint statement. "It is high time to recognize the rights of every person not identifying as exclusively male or female, regardless of their sex characteristics. These individuals are particularly vulnerable to violence, discrimination and inequalities in a system that only knows 'male' or 'female.' "


The Berlin wing of the far-right Alternative for Germany denounced the recommendation as "the craziest idea of all time" in a post on Twitter.

Johannes Dimroth, spokesman for Germany's Interior Ministry, told CNN: "We fully respect the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court and the government is fully willing to implement the decision."

The United Nations' Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner says according to experts between 0.5 percent and 1.7 percent of the global population is born with intersex traits that do not fit male or female bodies, including genitals, gonads and chromosome patterns.

"Being intersex relates to biological sex characteristics, and is distinct from a person's sexual orientation or gender identity," the U.N. office said in a fact sheet. "An intersex person may be straight, gay,lesbian, bisexual or asexual, and may identify as female, male, both or neither."

In 2013, Australia adopted the Sex Discrimination Amendment, the first law to include intersex status as a stand-alone prohibited ground of discrimination. The nation's Senate also banned involuntary or coerced sterilization of intersex people.

Earlier this year, California joined New York as the only states to allow residents who don't identify as male or female to change their birth certificates to match their gender identity.


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