The ACT Government has come under fire after making last-minute amendments that will exclude transgender and intersex people from gaining the right to marry to a proposed marriage equality bill only a day before it is due to become law.
Representatives of Organisation Intersex International (OII) Australia have called on lobby group Australian Marriage Equality (AME) to include intersex people on its board and represent their needs more adequately after the territory government came to the decision to exclude transgender and intersex people in its bill following legal advice from AME over the weekend. Attorney-General Simon Corbell confirmed the amendments at around midday on Monday.
The bill, expected to pass ACT’s Parliament after it is introduced on Tuesday, will now be referred to as the ‘Marriage Equality – Same-Sex Bill’ and will only apply to people marrying someone of the same sex – not to transgender people or those who do not identify as either ‘male’ or ‘female’. Legal advice from AME suggests if a new category of ‘same-sex marriage’ is not created, the legislation will find it difficult to fight off a planned High Court challenge by the Federal Government.
OII Australia vice-president Tony Briffa told the Star Observer that many intersex people were upset that their views for inclusion were left off the table once again, with proposed state-based marriage bills in NSW and Tasmania also seemingly excluding intersex people.
“Australian Marriage Equality has not represented the needs of intersex people and have not genuinely included us in the debate for marriage equality,” Briffa said.
“They claim to have legal advice that explains why intersex should not be included, but that advice was not prepared in consultation with the intersex community or with an adequate understanding about being intersex.
“They seem to think intersex is about gender identity even though it is about biology. I call on them to review the composition of their board and specifically include representatives from the intersex community to ensure we are included in future.”
Briffa said marriage was about a commitment between two people irrespective of sex and that “people like me” should not have to decide to be one sex in order to marry.
“Why should we be forced to deny our biology and propagate the shame and stigma we already experience?” Briffa told the Star Observer.
“I was pleased the ACT government tried to introduce legislation that would ensure all people are able to legally marry irrespective of sex, including intersex people. That was genuine marriage equality.
“Now that they’ve amended the Bill to exclude intersex people it should be renamed to the ‘Same Sex Marriage Bill’ and the Attorney-General should speak in support of intersex inclusion when the Bill is debated in the Legislative Assembly. Clearly I am still pleased same sex marriage is going ahead.”
In response to the concerns, AME deputy director Ivan Hinton said depending on the gender of their partner, a trans or intersex person will be able to marry either under the ACT’s or Federal Marriage Act.
“For the purposes of state and federal law almost all Australians are currently identified as either male or female and, as a consequence, will be able to marry under the federal law or the territory law depending on their circumstances,” Hinton said.
“The references to ‘same-sex’ that will be included in the Bill to strengthen it refers to legal gender not sexual orientation. This law is not specific to gay and lesbian Australians.”