The Queensland government has said it will take steps early next year to address the state’s “forced transgender divorce” laws preventing trans Queenslanders from updating their birth certificates while married.
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 such a requirement, which advocates say cruelly puts trans people in the position of having to choose between a divorce or inaccurate official records.
The federal same-sex marriage bill 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 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.”
Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said she was “very aware this is an important issue in the transgender community.”
“I’m very pleased to say I will now be taking steps to address this in early 2018,” she said.
Kristine Johnson from the Australian Transgender Support Association Queensland (ATSAQ) said the law had to be changed and there was nothing holding state governments back.
“We have a lot of members who haven’t been able to change their birth certificate because they don’t believe in divorce,” she said.
Earlier this week, married Brisbane trans woman Roz Dickson (pictured) applied to the Queensland Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages to have her records updated but was refused.
She’s concerned that without action by state governments across the country, it will take a legal challenge in each state after December 2018 to finally scrap the laws.
“In December next year, the law that says we can’t challenge the refusal will finally lift,” she said.
“If a state government hasn’t changed its law by then, we’ll have to go to court to challenge it and prove that the law should end.”
In 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.
Last year, a bill that would’ve repealed Victoria’s “forced trans divorce” law was introduced, but was ultimately voted down.