Australian "Forced Divorce" Laws for Trans-Community Causes International Stir

Married Trans Woman Wins Support from the United Nations in Bid to Change Birth Certificate

By Michael Burton
July 05, 2017

One trans woman’s fight to change the gender of her birth certificate has garnered international media attention, sparking discussion on the international rights of the transgender community.

Human rights activists and media outlets worldwide have turned their attention to an Australian law that forces a transgendered person to divorce their spouse if they wish to change the gender on their birth certificate.

This story first began to develop when a happily married New South Wales transgendered woman applied to change the gender on her birth certificate, having been denied the request because she married in 2005. The NSW law requires that for a person to change the gender of their birth certificate they must be over the age of 18, be born in NSW, completed their gender affirmation surgery, and be unmarried.

The woman was reportedly denied by the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages of the request for several years, and eventually chose to take the case to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

What’s being called a landmark ruling made on June 15, the committee said that they were in agreement with the woman, stating that she should be able to uphold her right to change the gender on her birth certificate, and remain married to her current spouse.

The woman has had no problem changing her gender on any other official document, including her passport, driver’s license, and medicare card.

“The author has lived on a day-to-day basis in a loving, married relationship with a female spouse that has been recognised in all respects as valid,” the UN’s statement read. “There is no apparent reason for refusing to conform the author’s birth certificate to this lawful reality."

The UN has since ordered the NSW and Australian government to revisit the law, issue the woman a new birth certificate, while requesting an official response to the ruling by December 15.

Human rights advocates are calling for an immediate amendment of the law, which also exists in Western Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, and the Northern Territory.

Rodney Croome, a spokesperson for Just.equal, an Australian human rights group advocating for equality on behalf of the LGBTIQ community, is requesting an immediate repeal of the law.

“It is cruel to make transgender partners choose between their gender identity and their solemn vows of lifelong commitment,” he said in a statement.

The world continues to monitor the story, awaiting a response from both the state and federal levels of the Australian government, with high hopes that the laws will be revised.

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By Michael Burton| July 05, 2017

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