Victorian Government Moves To End ‘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 may soon be able to stay married to their partners when they change their sex markers on their birth certificates.

In all states and territories except South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, couples who enter an opposite-sex marriage before one partner transitions are forced to divorce before the trans partner can update the sex marker on their birth certificate.

LGBTIQ advocates say the requirement unfairly puts trans Australians in the “impossible” position of having to choose between a divorce or inaccurate official records, and Victorian Attorney-General Martin Pakula on Tuesday announced legislation to remove the divorce requirement.

Transgender Victoria chair Brenda Appleton said, “We welcome this important reform that – if passed – will mean that trans and gender diverse Victorians will no longer have to make an impossible choice between staying married to the person they love and being legally recognised as their true gender.”

The federal same-sex marriage bill, passed in December, made an important change to the federal Sex Discrimination Act making it unlawful for state governments to refuse to change the certificates of trans people who are married.

But the marriage bill gives a 12 month window “to provide states and territories with such laws with an opportunity to amend their legislation” that closes in December 2018.

Human Rights Law Centre’s legal advocacy director Anna Brown said the change will mean trans and gender diverse people will be free to live “as their true selves while remaining committed to the person they fell in love with.”

“It isn’t fair that some trans and gender diverse people are still waiting for full marriage equality,” she said.

“The community has shown their support for marriage equality, it’s time our laws did as well. All governments must reform our outdated birth certificate laws so trans and gender diverse people can live with dignity.”

In 2016, the Victorian Government attempted to pass reforms that would have removed barriers to people obtaining their birth certificates with their true genders in 2016, but the bill failed to pass by one vote.

The Human Rights Law Centre said this meant that Victorian Government was in a different situation to other states and territories as standing orders of the state’s parliament prevent the reintroduction of a substantially similar bill.

Victorian Greens Senator Janet Rice’s partner Penny (both pictured) is one Victorian currently prevented from changing her birth certificate to reflect her female gender.

Senator Rice said she was pleased that the Victorian government had introduced this legislation, and urged Western Australia, the Northern Territory, New South Wales and Tasmania to follow suit.

“Forcing trans people to divorce their partner before they can change their birth certificates is discriminatory,” she said.

“For my wife Penny and me, this means Penny will be able to affirm her gender on her birth certificate and we can stay married for many years to come.”

Ms Appleton added other legal barriers to recognition for Victorian trans and gender diverse people remained, including requirements for gender affirmation surgery and age restrictions.

“Our laws should have more options for non-binary and gender diverse people,” she said.

Victoria’s announcement comes after the Queensland government introduced similar reforms earlier this month.

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.”

South Australia and the ACT amended their birth certificate laws before marriage equality was passed in December.

Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

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