Cambridge SU was saddened to see that the local Cambridge MP, Daniel Zeichner did not vote against the section 35 order and had not released any information about their reasoning for doing so, which is inadequate, especially when the bill directly affects transgender lives. With a mandate from Student Council, Cambridge SU reached out to Daniel Zeichner for more information. The email exchange is listed below.
Initial Email to Daniel Zeichner MP
Dear Daniel Zeichner MP,
We, the Cambridge SU representing all students in the University of Cambridge, found it shocking that we have not found your name on the list of Labour MPs voting against the appalling Section 35 order by the government.
Trans rights are human rights, and it's absolutely essential that our politicians' actions live up to their words. Words without actions are just empty promises and further degrades trust in our politicians today. Many of our students are deeply concerned that our elected representatives are not standing up for the rights of marginalised minorities like trans people.
Therefore our elected student representatives have met and resolved to publicly ask you why you have not voted against the Section 35 order. We deserve to learn more about your reasons for why you have decided not to turn up and vote against the Section 35 order. Cambridge has one of the highest percentages of LGBT+ people in the country according to 2021 census data. Trans rights and trans liberation matter deeply to your constituents, and they shall not be taken for granted.
We hope to get a detailed reply from you soon. Both this letter and your response to it will be published.
Response to Cambridge SU
Thank you for your letter about this important topic.
On 17 January 2023 the Scottish Secretary made a statement on the UK Government’s decision to make an order under section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998 preventing the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill from proceeding to Royal Assent. This is a serious moment – the first time section 35 has been invoked. The statement was therefore also followed by an Emergency Debate on this issue.
This is a major constitutional issue about the functioning of the Union, a complicated legal issue in itself. This has been made worse by the Government's inability to establish a proper settlement post-Brexit, which risks causing a range of problems on a wide swathe of issues in the future. Labour's promise to properly overhaul this relationship, therefore, is crucial.
The Scottish Secretary said the decision is centred on the consequences of the legislation for the operation of reserved matters, including equality legislation across Scotland, England and Wales. He advised that the UK Government had made an assessment that the Bill “risks creating significant complications through the existence of two different gender recognition regimes in the UK.” He also said it is open to the Scottish Government to bring back an amended Bill for reconsideration in the Scottish Parliament.
I am proud of the work done by my colleagues past and present to introduce the Scotland Act 1998, as well as the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010. However, there is a need for laws passed by Holyrood and those passed by Westminster to interact, and in this case the trans community need that cross-border interaction to work. I am concerned this situation has occurred because both Governments cannot and will not work with each other.
I am concerned that trans people, who suffer intense discrimination, will now not see this legislation take effect any time soon—if at all. I support the principle of updating the Gender Recognition Act. It was world-leading when it was introduced but now, two decades on, requires modernisation to humanise it and remove the indignities involved in the process. I also believe that any discussion of trans issues in the media and by politicians should be undertaken with respect and dignity. I have been particularly concerned by the language and rhetoric used against trans people over the past several months and years, a prominent example being the behaviour of the Conservative Party leadership contestants last summer. Far too often trans people are used as a political football, which causes further pain and anguish.
I assure you I will continue to work for a Labour Government that will bring down NHS waiting times for trans people, modernise the Gender Recognition Act and ban trans conversion therapy. As your MP, I will always support trans rights.
Member of Parliament for Cambridge
If you are a trans student affected by the content of this article, support is available.
- Student Advice Service - www.cambridgesu.co.uk/support/advice
- University Counselling Service - www.counselling.cam.ac.uk
- SU LGBT+ Campaign - www.cambridgesu.co.uk/organisation/6099/
- LGBT+ Switchboard Helpline - https://www.switchboard.org.uk/what-we-do/helpline/
- Samaritans - https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/