Transgender people in Queensland will be able to stay married to their partners when they affirm their gender on their birth certificate under legislation passed by the state government on Wednesday.
In some states and territories, trans people must be unmarried before their birth certificate can be amended, essentially requiring them 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.
Amendments passed the parliament on Wednesday evening with cross-party support to scrap the unmarried requirement in the state’s Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act.
“Previously any Queenslander who has undergone sexual reassignment surgery had to divorce their partner to have their gender legally recognised,” Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said.
“This is not a cost or a consequence any law of this state should impose on members of our community. It has been unjust and unfair and I’m proud to say this distressing choice will no longer be a requirement in Queensland.”
D’Ath said she hopes the reform “will go some way to helping the transgender community to live their lives openly and without judgment.”
Australian Transgender Support Association of Queensland (ATSAQ) secretary Kristine Johnson said the long-awaited removal of the “horrifying” law was “a big step forward”.
The group has 500 members and about half of them had been affected by the unmarried requirement, she said.
“It is wonderful news, because why should people who have been happily married for 40 years and one changes gender have to be divorced then get remarried?” she said.
Brisbane trans woman Roz Dickson has been unable to change the gender on her birth certificate while married to her wife of 28 years, Kathy.
“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.
“This law means I will finally be able to change my birth certificate to reflect who I am.”
The Human Rights Law Centre’s Director of Legal Advocacy Anna Brown said the “small but significant” change allows trans people to be free to be who they are while maintaining their commitment to the person they fell in love with.
“Transgender people face problems every day accessing services and facilities most Australians use without thinking twice because their identity documents do not match their gender,” she said.
She said the state government is currently reviewing laws that only allow people to change the gender on their birth certificate in very limited circumstances.
“We need a complete overhaul of these outdated laws to ensure, for example, that trans people do not have to undergo invasive and unnecessary surgeries simply to be recognised as the gender they live as.”
Queensland’s LNP opposition supported the legislation, but the three Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) MPs and one Pauline Hanson’s One Nation MP voted against it.
KAP state leader Rob Katter told ABC News they were ideologically opposed to the federal law changes and the state bill.
“This is a continued attack on traditional values and we want to represent the traditional views,” he said.
“We think it’s misleading to say the gay marriage vote was a benchmark to say the majority of Australians support these values.”
Some LNP MP’s told parliament they would oppose further “politically correct” calls to scrap the requirement for trans people to undergo gender reassignment surgery before amending their birth certificates, and to introduce gender neutral birth certificates for intersex people.
Greens MP Michael Berkman said intersex, transgender and gender diverse people should be able to alter their sex marker on all official documents, without the requirement for surgery.
“South Australian legislation provides for a person to apply to change their registered sex or gender identity with a statement provided in support of the application by a doctor or psychologist stating that the applicant has received an appropriate amount of clinical treatment regarding their gender or sexual identity,” he said.
“Similarly, the ACT and Western Australia do not specify surgery as the threshold for gender or sex reassignment in their legislation.”
From December 9, an exemption that allowed a state official to refuse to affirm the sex of a married person will be deleted from the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act 1984, putting pressure on the few remaining states and territories to act.
South Australia and the ACT had already updated their respective laws before the passage of marriage equality legislation last year.