Australia’s postal survey on same-sex marriage is “not an acceptable decision-making method”, the United Nations Human Rights Committee has said.
In a report, the committee recommended Australia urgently legislate for same-sex marriage regardless of what result is announced next week.
“The Committee is concerned about the explicit ban on same-sex marriage in the Marriage Act 1961 that results in discriminatory treatment of same-sex couples, including in matters related to divorce of couples who married overseas,” the report says.
“The Committee is of the view that resorting to public opinion polls to facilitate upholding rights under the Covenant in general, and equality and nondiscrimination of minority groups in particular, is not an acceptable decision-making method and that such an approach risks further marginalizing and stigmatizing members of minority groups.”
The UN recommended Australia amend the laws “irrespective of the results” of the survey and ensure that all laws give equal protection to LGBTI people.
The report also calls on Australia to remove the requirements in many states and territories forcing transgender people to undergo surgical or medical treatment and to be unmarried to change the sex marker on their identification documents, and to end the practice of irreversible surgery on Australian intersex infants and children except in cases of “absolute medical necessity”.
The committee also raised concerns about the psychological harm caused to transgender young people by requiring them to receive court authorisation for “stage 2” hormone treatment, a lengthy and expensive process that advocates say is just a “rubber stamp” of the opinion of treating doctors.
Australia should “consider ways to expedite access to stage two hormone treatment for gender dysphoria, including by removing the need for court authorisation in cases featuring uncontested agreement among parents or guardians, the child concerned and the medical team, provided the treatment is in accordance with the relevant guidelines and standards of care,” the committee said.
Human Rights Law Centre advocacy director Anna Brown said: “Currently Australia appears to be the only jurisdiction in the world that requires young trans people to go to Court before they be prescribed testosterone or estrogen by their doctor, even when parents and doctors all agree the treatment is in the young person’s best interests.”
Brown praised Attorney-General George Brandis’ recent support for trans teenagers in a test case on the issue in September, which will decide whether to limit the role of the Family Court to cases involving controversy.
“The Attorney-General’s support for preventing harm caused by unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles to transgender teenagers accessing essential medical treatment is a great example of how the Australian Government can take a stand to protect the rights of LGBTI people,” she said.