Victoria allows gender recognition without forced divorce

Transgender Victorians will now be able to stay married to the person they love when they change the gender on their birth certificate with the Andrews Government passing new laws. A similar bill is being introduced in the NSW parliament.

The change follows the passage of marriage equality late last year, and is part of steps to ensure that transgender people are not forced to choose between divorcing the person they love and having identification that doesn’t reflect who they are. Currently people are required to be unmarried if they wanted to change their gender.

Sarah Adcock, a trans woman who has a Victorian birth certificate, said she looks forward to the reforms becoming a reality.

“My wife and I love each other very much. We’ve enjoyed nine happy year together as a married couple and look forward to many more as we bring up our child,” Adcock said.

“Our marriage certificate doesn’t define our marriage as our relationship grows, but it is symbolic. We weren’t willing to give it up.”

Sarah married her wife in 2008. She transitioned from male to female in 2012 including changing her name, but has been unable to change her gender on her birth certificate.

“Last year, Australians overwhelmingly voted for an inclusive and fair society. Now we need to make sure this extends to transgender and other gender diverse people,” she said.

Greens senator Janet Rice has also welcomed the move. Rice and her spouse, respected climatologist Penny Whetton, remained married when Whetton transitioned, but the decision meant Whetton was unable to change her documents to reflect her gender.

Sally Goldner, Transgender Victoria media representative, acknowledged the importance of these reforms for the trans and gender diverse community and partners.

“I’ve heard so many stories that go to the absolute heart of the need for this reform. These reforms simply extend concepts like love and equality, but we would like to acknowledge the couples who were sadly forced apart before this reform and the sacrifices they made,” Goldner said.

“Looking to the future we welcome the moves underway in NSW and urge the remaining states and territories to also move quickly. We also believe remaining issues regarding birth certificates need to progress urgently.”

Anna Brown, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre and Co-Chair of the Equality Campaign, has welcomed the Victorian reforms.

“It’s unacceptable that some trans and gender diverse people are still waiting for full marriage equality. The community has shown their support for marriage equality, it’s time our laws did as well. All governments must follow Victoria’s lead and reform outdated birth certificate laws so trans and gender diverse people can live with dignity,” Brown said.

Transhealth Australia spokesperson Jaime Paige, said Australia still had some way to go before all discrimination against trans people was removed.

“This is a step in the right direction but trans people are still required to undergo invasive surgery before they can change their legal sex. Much more reform is needed to bring birth certificate laws in Victoria, NSW and many other states into line with best practice worldwide,” Paige said.

The Queensland Government has also introduced similar changes in a bill currently before parliament, and public inquiries into broader changes to birth certificate laws are underway in Queensland and Western Australia. South Australia and the ACT had already updated their laws before the changes to the Marriage Act in 2017.

Western Australia’s Attorney General John Quigley has referred the issue to the Western Australian Law Reform Commission in January.

Today a spokesman for the Law Reform Commission told OUTinPerth that they expect the discussion paper on the proposed changes will be released mid-year, and will allow people to provide feedback on the proposed changes.

Interested parties however do not have to wait until the discussion paper is released and are free to put forward submissions to the Law Reform Commission.

The commission expects to complete its review by the end of 2018.

OIP Staff, source: Human Rights Law Centre


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