Advocates welcome birth certificate law reform in Queensland

Queensland’s Palaszczuk Labor Government has moved a step closer to removing barriers for trans and gender diverse Australians seeking to have their gender legally affirmed.

Queensland Attorney General Shannon Fentiman (pictured) introduced a Bill to state parliament earlier today, which would allow Queenslanders to update with birth certificate without the need for medical intervention.

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Shannon Fentiman said the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Bill 2022 will ensure registration services remain relevant, responsive, and contemporary.

“We are committed to strengthening the legal recognition of trans and gender diverse people, and better recognising contemporary family and parenting in our modern society,” the Minister said.

Under the new legislation, trans and gender diverse people would no longer be required to have undergone sexual reassignment surgery to formally register affirmation of gender.

“The current Act unnecessarily medicalises the recognition of a person’s lived identity,” Minister Fentiman said.

“In addition, surgery is not always appropriate for trans people, and can be inaccessible and unaffordable as it is not covered by Medicare.

“This is about making sure that a person’s legal identity matches their lived identity, and will bring Queensland into line with most other jurisdictions.”

LGBTQIA+ advocates have welcomed the Bill, celebrating the state’s proposal to align their laws with other states.

“What most people in Australia take for granted as a simple piece of paper is for trans and gender diverse people the right to exist and be seen for who we are,” said Ymania Brown, a fa’afafine trans woman and spokesperson for national LGBTIQ+ group Equality Australia.

“Queensland’s current laws are cruel, outdated and out of step with almost every other state and territory in Australia.”

“Everyone deserves the respect and dignity of being recognised as themselves. After a long community-led campaign, this significant and long-overdue step to improve the lives of trans and gender diverse Queenslanders is very welcome, and we are urging all MPs to get behind this Bill”, said Ymania Brown.

Currently people in Queensland can update their gender marker on Commonwealth documents like their passport without the need for surgery. However, they cannot update their Queensland-issued birth certificate without surgery on their reproductive organs, and there is no gender marker recorded on Queensland driving licenses or Proof of Age Cards.

Having a birth certificate that does not align with your gender means that trans people may be forced to out themselves when applying for jobs, registering for school or university, accessing support services, or opening a bank account.

“It is a distressing experience to be forced to reveal intimate and private details about our bodies and lives, oftentimes in public settings,” Ymania Brown said.

Under the proposed reforms, transgender people will be able to update their gender on their birth certificate with a supporting statement from someone who has known them for 12 months or more. They will no longer be required to undergo gender affirming surgery.

The Bill also gives people greater say over their gender descriptors, including non-binary recognition.

National parent-led peer support network, Transcend Australia, said the reforms are crucial for the wellbeing of young trans and gender-diverse Queenslanders.

“Trans and gender diverse children thrive when they are affirmed for who they are, including on their birth certificate”, said Transcend CEO, Jeremy Wiggins.

“This long-overdue reform will remove the cruel and unnecessary barriers young people and their families currently face when trying to access documents that recognise them for who they are.

“It’s a simple, administrative change that will have a lifechanging impact on the wellbeing of trans and gender-diverse children and their families.”

The Queensland Council for LGBTI+ Health (QC) said the introduction of the Bill has a momentous occasion and commended the department on the process to date.

“We know that many people, and particularly the trans and gender diverse and intersex communities in Queensland have been waiting far, far too long for these reforms”, said Rebecca Reynolds, CEO of QC.

“We look forward to taking the time alongside our communities to consider the content of the Bill as it stands, and to working through the processes available to ensure that in its final form, that no-one is negatively impacted by a lack of understanding of the lives of our trans, non-binary, gender diverse and intersex communities in Queensland.”

Parents can choose not to record their child’s gender on their birth certificate if they wish, while young people will also be able update their gender markers with either the consent of their parents or court authorisation.

Jane Hopkins, from parents’ group PFLAG+ Queensland said the proposed amendments will give parents greater choice when registering the birth of their children.

“As parents, when we first hold our newborn baby, there is no clear evidence of the child’s sexuality or correct gender. If they grow up to identify as part of the LGBTIQA+ community and are exposed to discrimination, they are at far greater risk of developing serious mental health issues.

“Like all parents around Australia, our number one concern will always be our child’s safety and wellbeing. We are hoping for a mature and productive debate in the parliament that ensures this will happen.”

In addition, parents can elect to identify themselves on their child’s birth certificate as either mother, father or parent.

Heather Corkhill from Rainbow Families Queensland said the proposed laws would reflect the reality of many family structures.

“Rainbow Families Queensland commends the government on vital reforms to ensure that all Queensland families are recognised in the birth registration system. Whatever our gender or sexuality, and no matter how our children are conceived, our children’s birth certificates will now reflect our modern and diverse family structures.”

The Queensland Council for LGBTI+ Health (QC) said that the proposal will also positively impact intersex people and their families in Queensland.

“The proposed amendments will also provide additional time to register the birth of a child with variations of sex characteristics reducing pressure on parents and allowing increased opportunity to gather information and support”, said QC’s CEO, Rebecca Reynolds.

Queensland’s LGBTI+ Legal Service also welcomed the proposed changes.

“Our free legal service has assisted many clients who have faced significant barriers to the expression of their identities and families. We support these changes to the law that will remove invasions of privacy and human rights. Rainbow communities can now experience lives where our identities and families are more fully recognised and respected. We welcome these changes making a better Queensland”, said Matilda Alexander, Patron, LGBTI+ Legal Service.


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