Dec. 16, 2021 -- The U.K. Supreme Court ruled against gender-neutral passports on Wednesday, saying that gender can be used to confirm someone’s identity.

The court unanimously dismissed the case, according to the BBC. The justices said the gender of passport applicants is a “biological detail” that can be checked against birth, adoption, or gender recognition certificates.

“It is therefore the gender recognized for legal purposes and recorded in those documents which is relevant,” Robert Reed, president of the court, said in the ruling.

Christie Elan-Cane, a British activist who has spent years campaigning for legal and social recognition of people who identify as nonbinary, brought the case to the Supreme Court. Elan-Cane called for an “X” option and argued that the requirement for passport applicants to indicate whether they are male or female breaches human rights laws.

But in the ruling, Reed said no U.K. law recognizes a non-gendered category and argued that allowing the passport change would leave the government without a “coherent approach.”

Elan-Cane said that the U.K. government and judicial system were “on the wrong side of history” and that the case would now go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

“I very much regret to inform everyone that justice was not served today,” Elan-Cane posted on Twitter on Wednesday. “This is not the end -- we are going to Strasbourg.”

Other countries already issue or plan to allow passports with nonbinary gender markers, the BBC reported, including the U.S., Canada, Australia, Argentina, Denmark, India, Malta, Nepal, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Pakistan. Germany has also introduced an intersex category.

The U.S. issued the first general-neutral passport in October, which includes an “X” in the gender box to signal that the passport holder doesn’t identify as either male or female, according to Reuters. Dana Zzyym, a 66-year-old U.S. Navy veteran who identifies as intersex and nonbinary, sued the State Department over the issue in 2015.

“I almost burst into tears when I opened the envelope, pulled out my new passport, and saw the ‘X’ stamped boldly under ‘sex,’” Zzyym said in October. “It took 6 years, but to have an accurate passport, one that doesn’t force me to identify as male or female but recognizes I am neither, is liberating.”

Show Sources

BBC: “Gender-neutral passports: Campaigner Christie Elan-Cane loses Supreme Court case.”

U.K. Supreme Court: “Judgment R (on the application of Elan-Cane) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent),” Dec. 15, 2021.

Twitter: @ChristieElanCan, Dec. 15, 2021.

Reuters: “U.S. issues first passport with ‘X’ gender marker.”

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