A LAW that forces married couples to divorce if one partner changes sex is “cruel” and should be axed, a NSW upper house Greens MP has said.
Mehreen Faruqi MLC is looking to introduce a bill to the NSW Parliament to amend the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act that currently allows only unmarried people to legally register a change of sex.
“No couple should have to decide between a divorce and having incorrect personal documentation.”
Sydney state independent MP Alex Greenwich said the bill, which he is co-sponsoring, was about love and keeping couples together.
“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,” he said.
It’s expected the bill will be introduced in NSW Parliament in August.
Under current NSW laws, which are mirrored across Australia, opposite-sex couples who are married cannot remain so if one partner goes through a sex change and wishes to alter key documents, such as their birth certificate, to reflect their new gender.
In a letter to NSW Premier Mike Baird, Gender Centre General Manager Phinn Borg remarked that this placed couples in a difficult situation: “They are unable to claim that their marriage has broken down in order to obtain a divorce but unless they obtain a divorce, the person who has transitioned is not able to change the record of sex on his or her birth certificate.”
The campaign has also won the support of Australian Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson.
Speaking to the Star Observer, Wilson said it was not the job of government to compel people to end their marriages.
“Forced divorce is one of the worst and most egregious ways government can impose itself inside people’s relationships,” he said.
“Individuals and all of society are better off having couples in stable and happy relationships.
“The job of the government is to respect who individuals are, not tell them who they are.”
If the bill is successful, it could potentially open the way to some of Australia’s first same-sex married couples.
However, campaigners say this would not be inconsistent with the Marriage Act, which they argue is only relevant at the time of solemnisation.
In addition, as some trans* people may not have changed their birth certificate to reflect their gender, there are likely to already be a small number of same-sex married couples in Australia.
Meanwhile, marriage equality advocates met earlier this week to ensure any future legislation paving the way for same-sex couples to wed is inclusive of trans* and intersex Australians.
Facilitated by the Human Rights Law Centre, the meeting was also attended by groups including Australian Marriage Equality, Organisation Intersex International Australia and Transgender Victoria.
Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said: “We value dialogue with representatives of the transgender and intersex communities because the marriage equality campaign must be inclusive of all loving committed couples regardless of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.”