Landmark transgender law reforms pass final vote in Tasmania


Transforming Tasmania transgender group
Photo: Transforming Tasmania

Landmark legislation that will benefit Tasmania’s transgender community has passed its final parliamentary hurdle and will become law.

Tasmania’s Lower House passed the Marriage Amendments Bill on Wednesday with the support of Labor, the Greens, and Liberal speaker Sue Hickey crossing the floor to vote to proceed the debate.

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The legislation passed the state’s Upper House last week after amendments, but it returned to the Lower House for a final vote amid disapproval from the state’s Liberal government.

Under the new laws, trans and gender diverse people will be allowed the choice to remove gender markers from birth certificates, with parents given the option in the case of newborns.

The laws will also remove the requirement for trans people to undergo sterilising surgery before their birth certificate’s gender marker can be amended and instead allow self-identification through a statutory declaration.

Transgender people who are married will no longer be required to divorce their partners before they can change the gender on their birth certificate, a leftover from when same-sex marriage was illegal.

Children aged 16 years or older will be able to apply to change their registered gender, or to include or remove gender information from the register, without parental approval but with counselling.

Protections against hate speech and offensive language on the grounds of gender identity and intersex status will also be enacted in Tasmanian law.

Transgender advocates have applauded the legislation as the best in Australia and some of the “most inclusive and equitable” in the world.

“Today I feel prouder to be a Tasmanian than I have ever felt before,” Transforming Tasmania spokesperson Martine Delaney said.

“This is a historic day for transgender and gender diverse people, not only in Tasmania but around the world.”

Roen Meijers said he was confident the reforms would only have a positive impact on the state.

“Young transgender and gender diverse Tasmanians will grow up in a different world from the one we have known because the law will respect and protect who they are,” Meijers said.

“I am so impressed by those trans and non-binary folk who have bravely told their stories and who have endured the hate campaigns we have seen in recent months.

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“I hope our achievement inspires the rest of the nation to move quickly towards the reforms that are so overdue in this country.”

Candace Harrington from Tasmanian Families for Transgender Kids said she and other parents were “over the moon” about the reforms and “deeply grateful” to the politicians who had supported them.

“Parents of transgender and gender diverse kids are just so happy that our kids will no longer face legal discrimination and will be able to live their lives true to themselves,” she said.

“My message to other parents around Australia is to tell your personal stories as we have done. We overcame prejudice and politics and you can too.”

Reforms opposed by the state’s Liberal government

Last year, the Tasmanian Liberal government introduced the Marriage Amendments Bill to remove the requirement for people to divorce if they change their gender, in line with federal law.

Labor and the Greens attached the slate of amendments to the bill, in a bid to reduce discrimination against transgender and intersex people in the state.

That amended legislation has been opposed by the Tasmanian government for months, who say it was “deeply flawed” and could have “unintended consequences”.

Premier Will Hodgman said the legislation had been rushed and needed to undergo “a full legal review”.

“For a heavily-amended Bill to be received back from the Legislative Council and to be called on for debate immediately, particularly in the absence of the Attorney-General from the House, is highly unusual and poor process for making laws that affect all Tasmanians,” he told the parliament.

“There has been no opportunity to have a full review of what has been proposed and how it affects other statutes.

“We certainly do not rule out repealing the amendments either in part or in full.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison weighed in during the debate last year to slam the push to remove gender markers from the state’s birth certificates as “ridiculous”.

But speaker Sue Hickey told the parliament she supported the amended legislation and it would “grant dignity” to the trans community.

“I believe wholeheartedly that this Bill removes the discrimination of the transgender community and the only unintended consequence would be that a failure to pass this legislation would result in more psychological damage to the transgender community and their families,” she said.

“This is not a win for any particular political party, rather it grants dignity to the transgender community.”

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