The Queensland government has introduced legislation to parliament that would remove the need for transgender Queenslanders to get divorced in order to have their gender officially recognised.
Under state law, couples who enter an opposite-sex marriage before one partner transitions are forced to divorce before the trans partner can update the gender marker on their birth certificate.
The law is a leftover from when same-sex marriages were illegal, and all states and territories except the Australian Capital Territory and South Australia currently have such a requirement for trans and gender diverse people.
On Wednesday, Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath introduced to parliament amendments that would remove the divorce requirement in Section 22 of the state’s Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act.
“It has been unjust and unfair that some members of our community have been forced to face the distressing decision of choosing between their marriage and the legal recognition of their gender identity,” she said.
“This has caused significant anguish for many gender-diverse Queenslanders and must change.”
The federal same-sex marriage bill, passed last year, specifically addresses the trans divorce requirement with a change to the federal Sex Discrimination Act that would make it unlawful for state and territory governments to refuse to change the birth certificates of trans people who are married.
The federal marriage bill gives a 12 month window – ending on December 9 this year – “to provide states and territories with such laws with an opportunity to amend their legislation.”
Brisbane trans woman Roz Dickson transitioned at age 47, but if she was to change the gender on her birth certificate she would be forced to divorce her wife of 28 years, Kathy.
“I wanted to stay married for our children. When I transitioned to live as a woman I became happier in myself, a more fulfilled and content person to live with and a better parent to our young children,” Roz said.
“We decided it was best to remain married through my transition keeping our family together. This law means I could finally be able to change my birth certificate to reflect who I am.”
The Equality Campaign’s Queensland spokesperson Pete Black said the introduction of marriage equality last year was bittersweet for the transgender community, and the change will make marriage equality a reality for them.
“Not only were they unfairly targeted by the No campaign, the passage of the legislation through the Federal Parliament still didn’t provide marriage equality for some within in the transgender community, as they were still forced to choose between changing their sex on official documents and their marriage,” he said.
On Wednesday, Ms D’Ath also announced a broader review of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act.
As part of the review, the Attorney-General’s department has released a discussion paper exploring how the state “can improve the legal recognition of sex and gender diverse people, in response to changing community attitudes and understanding about gender”.
“This discussion paper is an important step in working towards ensuring all people’s sex and gender is respected and formally recognised in Queensland,” Ms D’Ath said.
“I encourage Queenslanders to get involved and have their say.”
For more information about the review and to read the discussion paper visit the review’s website here.