German cabinet adopts plan to make changing gender easier

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany is to cut the red tape involved in changing gender after the cabinet on Wednesday approved draft legislation to reform the rules, in a move welcomed by LGBT rights campaigners but criticised by the conservative opposition.

Germany's centre-left coalition plans to reform the current system, which is based on the 1980 Transexual Law that requires people to undergo a medical examination as well as a costly and often lengthy court process in order to change gender.

Under the reform, which will be put to parliament, transgender, intersex and non-binary individuals would be able to change their details in future simply with a visit to the local civil registry office.

There is no general age restriction under the new legislation, although children aged below 14 will have to have a parent or guardian lodge the application for them.

"Those affected were discriminated against for over 40 years by the Transexual Law. We are finally putting a stop to this," said family minister Lisa Paus.

Justice minister Marco Buschmann expressed his confidence that parliament would pass the reform.

He said the legislation did not affect house rules at businesses, addressing concerns from critics that the reformed rules could make it easier for men to access female-only spaces.

The reform also seeks to prevent several changes in a person's gender by banning any further changes within a year of the first one.

"On the one hand, transgender people have of course earned respect ... but on the other hand they must afford this to others, for example if women in the ladies' changing rooms don't feel comfortable if a biological man enters," said Guenter Krings, a member of the conservative CDU who speaks for the party on justice policy.

Krings also criticised the reform for not requiring children to undergo consultation before changing their name and gender.

Medical procedures for sex changes are not covered by the legislation and will be regulated under current medical standards.

(Reporting by Rachel More, Editing by Friederike Heine, William Maclean)