The Queensland government is set to introduce legislation in the next week that would put a stop to so-called “forced transgender divorces” in the state.
Under Queensland law, couples who enter an opposite-sex marriage before one partner transitions are forced to divorce before the transgender partner can update the sex marker on their birth certificate.
All states and territories except the Australian Capital Territory and South Australia have similar requirements, which LGBTI advocates say cruelly put trans people in the position of having to choose between a divorce or inaccurate official records.
Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath (pictured, centre) said on Saturday the government would introduce legislation to parliament this week that will amend Section 22 of the Queensland’s Births, Deaths and Marriages Registrations Act.
“Section 22 has previously meant that any Queenslander who has undergone sexual reassignment surgery had to divorce their partner to have their gender legally recognised,” Ms D’Ath said.
“This has caused significant anguish for many gender diverse Queenslanders.
“It has been unjust and unfair that some members of our community have been forced to face the distressing decision of choosing between their marriage and the legal recognition of their gender identity.”
The federal same-sex marriage bill, passed last year, specifically addresses the divorce requirement with a change to the federal Sex Discrimination Act that would make it unlawful for state and territory governments to refuse to change the certificates of trans people who are married.
The marriage bill gives a 12 month window “to provide states and territories with such laws with an opportunity to amend their legislation.”
LGBTI Legal Service president Matilda Alexander applauded the announcement, saying many trans Queenslanders had been caught in the “bizarre and destructive legal technicality.”
“Our clients are faced with an impossible choice between embracing their true gender identity by divorcing their supportive partner or continuing to live under the oppression of an official gender that does not match their identity but keeping their marriage,” Ms Alexander said.
“Last year, gay and lesbian Australians fought and won the right to equal love and this announcement will bring marriage equality to transgender people in Queensland as well.”
Members of national advocacy group Trans Health Australia wrote to all state and territory leaders in January asking for the “cruel” laws to be scrapped as soon as possible.
“It is not fair or just that the transgender community should have to wait longer than is absolutely necessary for the implementation of marriage equality and the acceptance of same-sex marriages created by the amendment of birth certificates,” the group wrote.
Last June, the United Nations Human Rights Committee published a decision declaring Australia’s “forced divorce” laws to be in violation of international human rights law.
The committee found in favour of a married trans woman from New South Wales, who had tried unsuccessfully on multiple occasions to change the sex on her birth certificate.
In 2016, a bill to amend Victoria’s “forced divorce” law was introduced, but was ultimately voted down.