The bill will still need to be voted on in a plenary session
The Committee on Constitutional Affairs, Rights, Freedoms and Guarantees of Portugal’s Parliament approved on Thursday draft legislation that will allow people to choose a neutral name, eliminating the current obligation for first names to be identified as male or female.
Only the members of the parliamentary committee from the far-right Chega party voted against the proposal to amend the Civil Registry Code, which will effectively put an end to the article that requires first names not to raise any “doubts about the sex of the registrant.”
All other parties voted in favour of the proposal to make it possible for citizens to replace their first name, taking into account self-determination of gender identity and gender expression.
According to Socialist Party (PS) MP Pedro Delgado Lopes, the text – which still has to be voted on in a plenary session – brings another “surgical change” to end the “discrepancy” that exists when people change their name and sex at the Institute of Registry and Notary but don’t change their name on their children’s and spouses’ documents.
Currently, changing the name on birth and marriage documents requires the consent of the person’s children and spouse, respectively.
The text now approved in the committee provides for the right to change one’s name on birth and marriage certificates, without having to be authorised by anyone else.
The proposal replaces four bills authored by the governing PS, Livre, People-Animals-Nature (PAN) and Left Bloc (BE), but in the view of the latter party “it’s not a replacement text, because it doesn’t cover all the amendments” that they had presented.
BE MP Joana Mortágua lamented in particular that one point in the party’s proposal had been left out that would have provided for the right of intersex people not to have any mention of their sex on their ID card.
In response, Delgado Lopes of the PS explained that this amendment was dropped, not because there was any objection to it, but because it was not feasible to include it in the time required. According to the PS MP, this change would require reconfiguring the entire computer system, which “is not technically feasible in a short space of time.”
The possibility of making the change only to the physical Citizen’s Card was also not contemplated because this would require reconfiguring the card, which is also not feasible with “the time we have,” he argued.
For this reason, the new text only provides for changes to the Civil Code; it was endorsed by almost all the committee’s members, including the opposition Social Democratic Party (PSD), who, in the shape of Emília Cerqueira, said they had “no major criticisms to make of the initiative” which they considered to be “fairer and more universal.”
Only Chega members voted against the new text because they considered it to be “a step backwards” and to be taking an “absurd route,” explained Chega’s Rita Matias.