Tasmania’s Upper House on track to pass landmark legislation to make gender optional on birth certificates

Updated April 04, 2019 20:27:08

Landmark legislation making gender optional on birth certificates is set to pass the Tasmanian Parliament, after a marathon debate to finalise amendments to the controversial bill.

Key points:

  • The amendments will make gender optional on birth certificates and allow 16-year-olds to change their registered gender without parental permission
  • The bill was introduced by the Liberal Government to ensure state marriage laws were in line with federal marriage laws, but opposition parties added contentious amendments
  • The bill will go through a third formal reading in the Upper House before returning to the Lower House for a tick of approval

Tasmania is on track to become the first jurisdiction in Australia to make it optional to include gender on birth certificates once the bill becomes law.

The Upper House debated the bill on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week, with members at times speaking passionately about the proposed changes, before the amended legislation passed the important second reading stage on Thursday evening.

The legislation will need to be formally rubber stamped by the Upper House next week, and return to the House of Assembly to be ticked off before it becomes law.

But transgender advocates are already celebrating.

Martine Delaney is part of the lobby group Transforming Tasmania.

“For transgender and gender diverse Tasmanians they can actually get, without stupid barriers, identity documents that actually match who they are as people in the world,” she said.

“Secondly, it’s a huge statement from Parliament to all trans and gender-diverse Tasmanians that Parliament actually supports them in living their life without discrimination.”

But the Tasmanian Coalition for Kids expressed “dismay” at changes it described as “radical”.

“Teenagers as young as 16 will be able to change their gender and name without parental consent and without any medical certification,” spokesperson Ben Smith said.

“This step goes well beyond community expectation.”

Mr Smith said the changes had been “rushed” and went against the advice of senior figures including the Solicitor-General and the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

“On top of that the Legislative Council has ignored the will of the 70 per cent plus of the Tasmanian people who we know from publicly released polling are against these changes.”

Last year, the Liberal State Government brought on the Marriage Amendments Bill to ensure state marriage legislation was in line with federal same-sex marriage laws, by removing the requirement for people to divorce if they change their gender.

Labor and the Greens took the opportunity to make changes to the bill aimed at reducing discrimination against transgender and intersex people, which passed the Lower House with the support of Liberal Speaker Sue Hickey.

The Upper House is set to pass the changes, which include:

  • making gender on birth certificates optional
  • removing the requirement for transgender people to have sexual reassignment surgery in order to have their new gender recognised
  • allowing people aged 16 years or older to apply to change their registered gender, or to include or remove gender information from the register, without parental approval but with counselling

The changes also clarify laws that protect the right of an individual to express their gender without discrimination.

The ACT, SA and NT have similar laws but Tasmania’s laws would go further by allowing people to remove gender entirely from their birth certificate, and not requiring any medical or psychological assessment before someone can change their gender.

Instead, the laws simply require people to lodge a statutory declaration confirming their new gender.

The legislation has been the topic of heated debate in Tasmania since the amendments were introduced by opposition parties last year.

The Government claimed the bill had been “hijacked”.

Independent Windermere MLC Ivan Dean attempted to push the bill to a committee with public hearings, while the Catholic Church-backed group the Tasmanian Coalition for Kids advertised in opposition to the bill.

Government minister Peter Gutwein earlier said the Parliament should have waited until after the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute (TLRI) had looked into the proposed changes before passing them.

He said whether the legislation was finalised next week by the House of Assembly was a matter for the Government’s Leader of the House Michael Ferguson, but the legislation would follow the regular procedures of the House.

The TLRI has agreed to provide advice on issues relating to sex and gender in Tasmanian legislation, and took the unusual step of publishing its terms of reference because of the controversy surrounding the issue.

Topics: lgbt, children, community-and-society, family-and-children, parliament, state-parliament, government-and-politics, tas, hobart-7000, launceston-7250

First posted April 04, 2019 19:02:04

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