The current law does not allow a married person to legally change their gender, forcing a married trans* person to choose between divorce or having their birth certificate accurately reflect their gender. As well as promoting stigma against trans* people, an incorrect birth certificate can create problems for people accessing services and benefits, and in the workplace.
The bill will be introduced by Sydney state independent MP Alex Greenwich and Greens upper house MP Mehreen Faruqi.
“These offensive provisions have remained in our law for far too long, and for no good reason. No loving couple should be forced to choose between divorce and a birth certificate that displays an incorrect sex of one partner. Unfortunately, that’s what currently happens in NSW,” Faruqi said.
A joint statement by Faruqi and Greenwich explicitly said the bill would not legalise same-sex marriage, and called on NSW parliamentarians to support it.
“This constitutionally valid bill is about love and keeping couples together under the law. I know many NSW MPs believe in the importance of marriage, and I hope their respect for the institution extends to protecting these loving marriages,” Greenwich said.
Many LGBTI rights advocates have acknowledged this problem would be better solved by the passage of federal marriage equality legislation, but the bill would allow this specific issue to be addressed in the interim.
“We support the introduction of this bill and what it seeks to achieve. It is unnecessary and cruel to tear apart committed relationships and this bill seeks to prevent this from occurring in future,” NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby Policy and Project Officer Jed Horner told the Star Observer.
“We call upon state members of parliament to show compassion and understanding and to lend their support to this bill.”
Forced divorce for trans* people exists in every Australian state and territory, and Transgender Victoria Executive Director Sally Goldner told the Star Observer it would be much more simple to address the issue through federal marriage equality legislation.
“That way we don’t have to change eight states’ and territories’ laws one by one. But in the mean time if we’re not doing that then we may as well keep moving to lessen the discrimination on many angles,” Goldner said.
She also expanded on the social and financial discrimination experienced by trans* people put in the position of having to choose between divorce or an inaccurate birth certificate.
“They either have to divorce where they don’t really want to, which effectively means perjuring themselves in the family court, it means legal costs and other financial costs of divorce, which is financial discrimination. Or the trans* person gets stuck with a birth certificate that is simply not accurate,” Goldner said.
“It’s just an absolute lose-lose situation when it comes to human dignity.”
It is unclear whether government and opposition members will support the bill, but it is likely to meet resistance from some upper house MPs including the Christian Democratic Party’s Fred Nile.