Having been approved by the parliament on April 13, 2018, the new gender-change law is in crisis when Portugal President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has vetoed it. The intent of this law is to allow citizens of Portugal to make gender changes legally from the age of 16 without having the need to undergo a medical test.
However, according to Mr. Rebelo de Sousa, it would be more sensible to seek for a medical opinion at an early stage if an individual would like to undergo gender reassignment surgery and a possible change of name in the future. Explaining his decision over the matter in a statement posted on the presidential website, the President has also recommended that a provision requiring a prior medical evaluation for citizens under 18 years old should be included in the said law.
Currently, the state’s gender-related law only covers those people at least 18 years old who are required to present a medical report to warrant a legal gender change, which is why the President has emphasized the need for medical testing for those under age of 18. Yet, the proposed law only includes a provision saying that those people aged between 16 and 18 would be given approval for a change of gender provided that there’s a consent from their parents or legal guardians.
While the gender-change law has been already approved by the legislative body with 109 votes in the country’s 230-seat parliament, it can only take effect once the President signs it. Unfortunately, Mr. Rebelo de Sousa’s rejection has been reiterated when he said that the changes being proposed by the new law were “far from being a consent among the politicians and the society”. Furthermore, soon after the President’s veto, mixed reactions from several entities and personalities were noted. The president of a group of parents who are advocates of sexual orientation freedom, Margarida Faria stressed that the President failed to challenge the right of self-determination of those from age of 18 and consider it as an essential progress. Another negative reaction came from LGBT rights advocacy group ILGA-Europe who treated the veto a frustrating move. “Young people must be able to access a legal gender recognition procedure that is fair and trusts them to know who they are”, they further stated.
On the other hand, Mr. Rebelo de Sousa’s decision has also gained support from other personalities including Nuno Magalhaes of the right-wing party CDS-PP and Isabel Moreira from Socialist Party who were in favor of the veto and said that revisions could be done to it. Moreover, the Association of Portuguese Catholic Doctors happily received the decision reiterating that opinions of doctors about these cases should always be given with “huge importance”.
Even though the President has rendered his refusal to make the new gender-change law legally effective, the vetoed one would be returned back to the Parliament to either amend it in accordance with the President’s suggestions or to conduct a confirmation of the current legislation with the approval of the majority of the members of the Parliament. As a result, Mr. Rebelo de Sousa would be required to sign it to become an effective law.
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