Their Marriage Was Thrown Out in Singapore When One Partner Became Transgender

A Singaporean couple whose marriage was thrown out last year after one partner underwent gender-affirming surgery could finally get answers following a court’s agreement to review the decision.

After an eight-year relationship, the couple, whose names have been withheld, married as man and woman in October 2015. However, the man at the time was already in the process of transitioning, having formally changed his name.

Yet he was still a man under Singaporean law, since he had neither changed the gender on his ID card nor underwent gender-affirming surgery. After a discussion with the government’s Registry of Marriages, he was allowed to marry provided that he does not go under the knife before the wedding and that he comes in masculine clothing.

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The marriage went on and had no issue until June 2016, when the man decided to undergo surgery, update the gender on his ID card, and become a woman.

And that’s exactly how the couple’s troubles began. While Singapore acknowledges transgender people, it does not allow same-sex marriages. By August 2016, the pair was barred from acquiring the state-subsidized apartment they waited on for four years because their marriage was “not valid.”

singaporean couple same-sex marriage reviewed by court

The partner who transitioned told Quartz about the housing officer they spoke to:

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“I told her, ‘But we’re already married.’ She was shocked. You could tell that they had no idea what to do.”

“First she said, ‘The marriage needs to be valid in Singapore,’ because I think she thought we got married overseas. I answered, ‘No, it’s a marriage by Singapore’s Registry of Marriages.’ And then she said she needed to get back to us. That’s when all the delays started.”

Their marriage was ultimately revoked in February 2017, and they applied to have the decision examined by November.

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The Supreme Court of Singapore. Photo via Terence Ong/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Singapore’s High Court accepted the case last week, which will be heard before a judge and may proceed to the Court of Appeals, where three to five judges will be hearing, Quartz noted in a new report. These are the lower and upper divisions of Singapore’s Supreme Court.

Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss and Suang Wijaya, the couple’s solicitors, told the outlet:

“This application seeks a court ruling that the Registrar of Marriages, in deciding to void our clients’ marriage and then deleting the record of marriage from the state marriage register, acted beyond her legal powers. In our view, the Registrar’s decision and the action she took, raise rule of law issues.”

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No hearing date has been set yet.

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