Tasmanian Labor has walked back a commitment to remove sex markers from birth certificates, instead calling for parents being able to choose whether the information is recorded.
Labor had previously joined the Tasmanian Greens in calling for gender markers to be removed from birth certificates in an Australian-first move to benefit transgender people, as the state’s parliament debates government legislation ending “forced trans divorces”.
But Tasmanian Labor’s Justice spokesperson Ella Haddad has now said the party will push for a parent to be able to choose to have sex markers on a birth certificate or leave it blank, The Examiner reported.
Haddad said a person could update that information later in life under “a simple administrative process,” without the need for invasive surgery.
Tasmanian Labor’s Justice spokesperson Ella Haddad said the party had consulted widely to reach the position.
“I see this as the best way to achieve the intent of the change which is to enhance the rights of transgender people,” she said.
But Greens leader Cassy O’Connor blasted Labor’s backflip as “gutless” and “a breach of faith with the transgender community.”
The Tasmanian Liberal government, which has a slim majority in the parliament, opposed the move to remove the sex markers and Attorney-General Elise Archer said the Greens amendments were being rushed “without proper consideration” and would cause “potentially serious unintended consequences”.
Archer said the government wanted the proposed legislation examined by the Tasmanian Law Reform Commission, and called on Labor to also back the move.
But advocacy group Transforming Tasmania says there is no need for an inquiry into the reforms and has called on the the state government to stop trying to delay and allow a free vote on the issue.
Spokesperson Roen Meijers accused the government of making false claims that the reforms have been “secret” and “rushed” and that the Government bill in which they should be included is “unrelated”.
“Based on a report from the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner in 2016, political and community stakeholders have been working closely together for many months, are on the same page and have the same objectives,” they said.
“There is strong resolve about removing discrimination against transgender and gender diverse people, and agreement about how to achieve this overdue reform.”
Meijers said there is nothing secret, rushed or inappropriate about the amendments.
“We have been talking to all three parties and to the general public about these reforms for more than half a year,” they said.
“They fit perfectly within a bill that is about removing outdated legal obstacles to the affirmation of gender identity.”
Womens’ groups hit back at ‘incorrect’ claims
Earlier, four Tasmanian women’s organisations backed the proposed reform in Tasmania to remove sex markers from the state’s birth certificates.
The proposal has been criticised from the Australian Christian Lobby and a secular group called Women Speak Tasmania, who are concerned cisgender men would “pretend” to be women to access certain spaces, such as women’s refuges.
“We are concerned the rights of women and girls to safe female-only spaces will be collateral damage in the rush to allow male transgender persons to become legally female simply by signing a declaration that they identify as female,” Women Speak Tasmania told the Mercury last week.
But Women’s Legal Service Tasmania, Engender Equality, the Hobart Women’s Shelter and Women’s Health Tasmania released a joint statement this week disputing “incorrect” claims the people they work with would be harmed or endangered by the proposal by the Tasmanian Greens.
“Through our collective experience of providing legal, health, domestic violence and housing services to women, we are already successfully supporting transgender women who, it should be noted, are often themselves victims of violence and targeted by people who use abusive behaviour,” the groups said.
“There is no research or service experience to suggest that men who seek to harm women change their gender or masquerade as transgender women in order to do so.
“Acknowledging in law the human rights of transgender people does not reduce the human rights enjoyed by non-transgender people.
“Protecting women’s rights and supporting transgender people are not mutually exclusive.”
The group of Tasmanian women’s services said “it is our position that transgender women are women and they are welcome at our services.”
“We can say with certainty that [Womens Speak Tasmania] do not represent the large number of women associated with our organisations. They do not speak for us,” the groups said.