Victoria Is The Latest State To Scrap ‘Forced Transgender Divorce’ Laws


Victoria greens senator janet rice penny whetton transgender marriage equality
Dr Penny Whetton (left) and Janet Rice (right). Photo: Supplied

Transgender Victorians will now be able to stay married to their partners when they change the gender on their birth certificate under legislation passed by the Victorian government on Tuesday night.

In several states and territories, transgender people must be unmarried if they want to update the sex marker on their birth certificate, essentially requiring trans people to make a cruel choice between divorcing the person they love or having identification that doesn’t reflect who they are. The law is a leftover from when same-sex marriages were illegal.

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Victorian trans woman Sarah Adcock married her wife in 2008, and she transitioned to female in 2012. She changed her name but has previously been unable to change her gender on her birth certificate while married to her partner.

She said Australians “overwhelmingly voted for an inclusive and fair society” last year and all states need to make sure this extends to transgender and other gender diverse people.

“My wife and I love each other very much. We’ve enjoyed nine happy year together as a married couple and look forward to many more as we bring up our child,” she said.

“Our marriage certificate doesn’t define our marriage as our relationship grows, but it is symbolic. We weren’t willing to give it up.”

Another Victorian affected by the law is Greens Senator Janet Rice’s partner Penny (both pictured), and Rice said the law change means “Penny will be able to affirm her gender on her birth certificate and we can stay married for many years to come.”

Transgender Victoria spokesperson Sally Goldner said the reforms were important for the trans and gender diverse people and their partners, and urged remaining states to move quickly to change their respective laws.

“These reforms simply extend concepts like love and equality, but we would like to acknowledge the couples who were sadly forced apart before this reform and the sacrifices they made,” she said.

A similar bill to scrap the divorce requirement in New South Wales was introduced to that state’s parliament this week.

NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Lauren Foy welcomed the move and said the legal changes around the unmarried requirement will improve the lives of transgender people.

“We congratulate the Berejiklian government on their strong commitment to equality for all people in NSW and will continue to welcome legislative advances that promote the autonomy, dignity and respect that all LGBTI deserve,” she said.

The Queensland Government has also introduced similar changes in a bill currently before parliament, and is also holding a public inquiry into broader changes to birth certificate laws.

Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said the divorce requirement in Section 22 of the state’s Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act had “caused significant anguish for many gender-diverse Queenslanders and must change.”

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South Australia and the ACT had already updated their laws before the passage of the same-sex marriage bill in 2017.

Human Rights Law Centre Legal Advocacy Director Anna Brown said it’s “unacceptable that some trans and gender diverse people are still waiting for full marriage equality.”

“The community has shown their support for marriage equality, it’s time our laws did as well,” Ms Brown said.

“All governments must follow Victoria’s lead and reform outdated birth certificate laws so trans and gender diverse people can live with dignity.”

Trans Health Australia spokesperson Jaime Paige said Australia still has some way to go before all discrimination against transgender people is removed.

“This is a step in the right direction but trans people are still required to undergo invasive surgery before they can change their legal sex,” Paige said.

“Much more reform is needed to bring birth certificate laws in Victoria, New South Wales and many other states into line with best practice worldwide.”