(CNN) — The UK government has blocked a new law intended to allow trans people in Scotland to change their legal gender without a medical diagnosis—a controversial move that has added fuel to the already highly emotional debate over Scottish independence.
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack announced on Monday that Westminster has taken the highly unusual step of blocking the Scottish bill from becoming law because it was concerned about its impact on UK-wide equality laws.
Scotland has a devolved government, which means that many, but not all, decisions are made at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh.
In December, the Scottish Parliament passed a new law to make it easier for people to change their legal gender.
Under the current system, trans people in Scotland must jump through a number of hoops if they want to change the gender marker in their documents. They must have a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria—a condition defined by the distress caused by the discrepancy between a person’s body and their gender identity—and prove that they’ve been living in their chosen gender for two years. They also need to be at least 18 years old.
The new rules would drop the medical diagnosis requirement, moving instead to self-determination. The waiting time is cut from two years to six months, and the age limit is lowered to 16.
While Scotland has the power to make its own laws on issues like healthcare, education, and environment, the UK government has the power to stop Scottish bills from becoming laws, for example if it believes the Scottish bill would be incompatible with international agreements, damage national security or defense, or or clash with a UK-wide law on issues that fall outside Scotland’s powers.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.
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