Tasmania is a step closer to become the first Australian jurisdiction to make the inclusion of sex markers on birth certificates optional, after the state’s Lower House passed the reforms.
Nine historic changes put forward by Labor and Greens aiming to remove discrimination against transgender and intersex people in the state’s Births, Deaths and Marriage Act passed the state’s Lower House on Tuesday, recognised as the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
The reforms include allowing parents to choose whether their child’s sex marker is recorded on their birth certificate – though it would still be recorded in medical records – and allowing adult Tasmanians to supply a statutory declaration to the registrar to change the marker on their birth certificate.
Under the laws, children under 16 would need the support of a parent or guardian to apply to do so, and a child without the support of a parent or guardian would need the approval of a magistrate.
Transforming Tasmania spokesperson Martine Delaney said the passing of the amendments was a big victory after more than a decade of fighting for reform.
“It means the trans and gender-diverse people in Tasmania will be on a level playing field when it comes to everyday life,” she said.
She said the historic moment was further proof that Tasmania, which was the last jurisdiction to decriminalise homosexuality and cross-dressing, had cast aside its past.
The laws passed the Lower House with the casting vote of Liberal Speaker Sue Hickey, who split from the rest of the state’s Liberal government to back the reforms.
Hickey said, “Whilst I believe this bill will not in any way affect the lives of more than 98 per cent of Tasmanians, it will significantly improve the lives of our transgender communities and their families who have suffered significant discrimination.”
But Tasmanian Attorney-General Elise Archer said the amendments were “flawed” and said the government had wanted the amendments referred to the Tasmania Law Reform Institute first.
“This amended bill contains legally untested, unconsulted and highly problematic changes that we could not support,” she said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also took to Twitter to blast the reforms as “ridiculous”.
“Labor’s plan to remove gender from birth certificates in Tasmania is ridiculous,” Morrison tweeted on Wednesday.
“Bill Shorten should step up and commit to put motion to ALP Federal Conference to outlaw it.”
But Martine Delaney said Morrison’s comments were “ill-informed” and encouraged Morrison to meet with the transgender community to discuss the issue.
“A heck of a lot of people have been quick to pass judgement. He [Scott Morrison] is doing so – I think – from a very ill-informed base,” Delaney told SBS News.
“If he took the time to actually talk to people and find out what this is about, he would find out this is not actually ridiculous, this is common sense and this is justice.
“[The legislation] actually affects most Tasmanians in no measurable way, but makes an enormous difference to the lives of transgender and gender diverse people.
“[I] think upper house members understand that and I am pretty confident we will see these amendments pass.”
Before it becomes law, the bill must still pass Tasmania’s upper house, comprising mostly independent MPs.