A TRANSWOMAN with a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) is a woman as far as the law is concerned, the Court of Session has ruled.

The opinion from Lady Haldane on Tuesday could have implications for the Gender Recognition Reform Bill currently working its way through Holyrood.

The Scottish Conservatives have called on the government to postpone next week's final vote on the legislation.

The case was brought by the For Women Scotland campaign group over Scottish Government legislation designed to increase the number of women on public boards.

Initially, the law stated that anyone "living as a woman" would be eligible. 

Their first action against ministers was successful, forcing the publication of new statutory guidelines which stated that transgender women should still be counted as female, so long as they held a GRC.

For Women Scotland claimed the Scottish Government had overstepped its powers by effectively redefining the meaning of gender, to include people born as men.

However, Lady Haldane disagreed.

Her judgement, issued on Tuesday, stated that sex was “not limited to biological or birth sex, but includes those in possession of a GRC obtained in accordance with the 2004 [Gender Recognition] Act stating their acquired gender, and thus their sex.”

During the hearing, For Women Scotland’s KC, Aidan O’Neill, said the ruling  from Scotland’s highest civil court could have significant implications for the Scottish Government’s current gender recognition reforms as well as protection of single-sex spaces across the UK.

The new law aims to reform the process by which trans people can obtain a gender recognition certificate.

The legislation removes the need for medical assessment and allows someone to obtain a gender recognition certificate after six months.

Some critics of the change have raised concerns that this could have an impact on the single-sex exceptions in the Equality Act, and could potentially place women in danger from men who might abuse a self-identification system.

Though ministers and advocates for the change have rejected this. 

Currently, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, there are circumstances under the 2010 Equality Act where a single-sex service provider can “prevent, limit or modify trans people’s access to the service”.

At the moment, this applies "whether the person has a Gender Recognition Certificate or not."

For Women Scotland said it was “hugely disappointed” at the ruling. They claimed it was "disastrous for women who are seemingly now no longer recognised in law as a sex-class, with distinct requirements of our own”.

The group added: “There are clear ramifications for the Gender Recognition Reform Bill currently before parliament and we hope some time will be allowed for MSPs to digest the ruling and its consequences.

“It is now beyond doubt that the Bill is not a simple administration change but does have a wider impact on society.”

Vic Valentine, manager of Scottish Trans, said the ruling “confirms the position as we and many others have understood it for well over a decade and upholds trans people’s existing rights”.

Scottish Conservative equalities spokesperson Rachael Hamilton called on the Scottish Government to "urgently postpone" the final debate on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill in the wake of the ruling.

She said: “Throughout this entire debate, the SNP have tried to pretend that this case is completely irrelevant to the reforms they are trying to ram through parliament.

“Yet despite all of the SNP’s claims that obtaining a GRC does not grant automatic access to the rights and protections of women, they have just successfully argued that, in some circumstances, it does.

“This ruling is therefore highly relevant to reforms which will vastly speed up the process by which people can obtain a gender recognition certificate – and potentially allow men acting in bad faith to abuse the system.

“Both the UN Special Rapporteur and EHRC recognised this and urged the SNP to postpone their bill.

"Instead, the SNP seem determined to railroad this shoddy legislation through parliament at breakneck pace, regardless of its impacts on women and girls.  

“The SNP must urgently postpone the final debate on this misguided bill so that MSPs can consider this ruling and work to amend the legislation in response.”