State and territory Premiers have been urged to take action to scrap Australia’s cruel “forced transgender divorce” laws as soon as possible.
In all states and territories except South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, couples who enter an opposite-sex marriage before one partner transitions are forced to divorce before the trans partner can update the sex marker on their birth certificate.
Advocates say the requirement cruelly puts trans Australians in the position of having to choose between a divorce or inaccurate official records.
The federal same-sex marriage bill, passed last month, addresses the divorce requirement with an important change to the federal Sex Discrimination Act making it unlawful for state governments to refuse to change the certificates of trans people who are married.
But the marriage bill gives a 12 month window “to provide states and territories with such laws with an opportunity to amend their legislation.”
This week, representatives from national advocacy group Trans Health Australia wrote to leaders in all states and territories with the laws asking for them to be scrapped when their respective parliaments resume.
The letters, signed by Trans Health Australia’s Melody Moore and Zoey Campbell, explain that marriage equality will not be fully achieved until the laws are repealed.
“This cruel transgender divorce requirement has undermined our families and discriminated against transgender partners and parents by making them choose between their marriage or legal recognition of their identity,” the letters read.
“It is not fair or just that the transgender community should have to wait longer than is absolutely necessary for the implementation of marriage equality and the acceptance of same-sex marriages created by the amendment of birth certificates.
“We urge you to move forward on this matter as soon as parliament resumes in 2018 or as soon as is practical.”
In the letters, the advocates also urge leaders to review other areas of state and territory legislation relevant to transgender people that has “fallen behind international best practice.”
“It is no longer, for example, considered consistent with recognised human rights in many parts of the world to specify surgical procedures as a requirement for the legal amendment of gender on documents such as birth certificates,” they wrote.
“In April 2017, the European Court of Human Rights found such laws to be a violation of the human rights of citizens of the European Union.”
Last month, Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said she was “very aware” the issue of the divorces was an important one for the transgender community and pledged to “take steps to address this in early 2018.”
In 2016, a bill that would’ve repealed Victoria’s “forced trans divorce” law was introduced to parliament but ultimately voted down.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee published a decision last year declaring the forced divorces to be in violation of international human rights law.
The committee found in favour of a married trans woman from New South Wales, who had tried unsuccessfully on multiple occasions to change the sex on her birth certificate.