New South Wales Ends ‘Forced Divorce’ Laws For Transgender People


Transgender people in New South Wales will be able to stay married to their partners when they affirm their gender on their birth certificate under legislation passed by the NSW government on Wednesday.

In a number of states and territories, trans people must be unmarried before their birth certificate can be amended, essentially requiring trans people to make a cruel choice between divorcing the person they love or having identification that doesn’t reflect who they are.

The law is a leftover from when same-sex marriages were illegal.

Kate Toyer (pictured right), a trans woman from New South Wales, said she and her family were looking forward to the reform becoming a reality.

“I am a trans woman. I am a woman practically, socially, and legally in everything except one important document,” she said.

“My birth certificate still assigns me as male. To change this, I would have to get divorced from the woman with whom I have three beautiful children.

“I would have to get divorced from the woman I love more than anything else in this world.”

Kirsti Miller was forced to divorce her partner to change her birth certificate in 2006 and said she was pleased that no one else would have to go through her experience.

“I was forced to divorce my childhood sweetheart so my birth certificate could reflect my true gender,” she said.

“I should never have had to make that choice. It was devastating and had a long lasting impact on our lives.

“The transgender community are already vulnerable in society, it’s welcome that on this issue at least we will now be treated with respect.”

The New South Wales parliament also voted on Wednesday to update more than 50 other state laws and regulations to reflect the federal passage of marriage equality last December, including the use of gender-neutral language to prevent laws from excluding married couples based on their sex.

“Since same-sex marriage was legalised in Australia six months ago, the NSW Government has been working hard to identify and amend its laws relating to marriage and address any hurdles that have arisen for same-sex couples,” NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman said.

Anna Brown, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre and Co-Chair of the Equality Campaign, welcomed the state’s reforms but said there was more to do.

“The community has shown their support for marriage equality, it’s time our laws respected marriage equality for all. All governments must reform outdated birth certificate laws so trans and gender diverse people can live with dignity,” Ms Brown said.

“This is a step in the right direction but trans people in NSW 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 NSW and many other states into line with best practice worldwide.”

South Australia and the ACT had already updated their respective “forced divorce” laws before the passage of the same-sex marriage bill last year.

From December 9, an exemption that allowed a state official to refuse to change the sex of a married person will be deleted from the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act 1984, putting pressure on the remaining states and territories to act.

Last month, the Victorian government followed suit and changed their respective birth certificate laws.

The Queensland Government has also introduced similar changes in a bill currently before parliament, and is also holding a committee inquiry into broader changes to birth certificate laws.

(Photo courtesy of Kate Toyer)