France: Cour de cassation finds that French Law does not allow recognition of neutral gender on official documents

On 4 May 2017, the Cour de cassation found that French Law does not allow recognition of neutral gender on official documents. In the case, ”D.” was registered as a “male”. At the age of 63, he requested the correction of his birth certificate, in order to include the words “neutral gender” instead of “male”.  D. explained that it was impossible to determine his sex at birth and subsequently had no sexual development, so that he could not be identified, either as a man or as a woman. D. defines himself as “intersexe”: “neither man nor woman”. The Court in particular discussed Art 8 of the ECHR (protecting the right to private and family life). It highlighted that in official documents, there are only two mentions relating to gender (“masculine” / “feminine”). This binarity pursues a legitimate aim, for it is necessary for the social and legal organization, of which it constitutes a founding element. The Court further found that recognition by the judge of a third category of sex would have profound repercussions on the rules of French law constructed on the basis of gender binarity and would involve numerous legislative changes of coordination. The Court concluded in the case of D. that the infringement of the right to respect for his private life is not disproportionate in the light of the legitimate aim pursued: if D. ”presents a sexual ambiguity”, the Court of Appeal previously found that his physical appearance is masculine, married in 1993 and adopted a child with his wife, so that his appearance and social behavior are, in the eyes of third persons, those of a person of sex Male and in accordance with the statement in his birth certificate. The Court accordingly upholds the ruling of the Court of Appeal.

The decision is available online: Link