Birth, Deaths and Marriages Registration (Gender Identity) Bill 2016

Legislative Council Tuesday 29 November 2016


second reading speech

Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration (Gender Identity) Amendment Bill  2016


The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 16:02 :10 ): I rise on behalf of the Greens to speak to the government's Birth, Deaths and Marriages Registration (Gender Identity) Bill 2016. While the Greens acknowledge that this bill is an enlightened piece of legislation that will break down many oppressive barriers to gender-diverse South Australians, and while we want to celebrate this reform with our stakeholders and members of the gender-diverse community, we have a duty to the South Australian public to uphold.

This duty is to not be swept up in the eventual victory that the LGBTIQ+ community has managed to squeeze out of this parliament. This duty is to acknowledge the long and continuing fight. This duty is to acknowledge the fact that the community and we here, as their representatives, have been pushing for this reform for far too many years. In this place, in 2014, I introduced the Sexual Reassignment Repeal Bill with the following words:

From my consultations with those who are members of the transgender community in this state, and indeed members who were born in this state but have moved interstate, I know that this act, which is 26 years old and has never been reviewed, has never worked, not even in that first year of its operation.

This bill, while well-meaning and of its time, does not serve the transgender community, the broader community, or the medical health professionals of this state. The community has never supported this act. It has taken the government nearly 30 years to listen to their voices. That bill of mine was referred to the Legislative Review Committee. Their report was handed down in April this year. While some of the findings made in this report have been addressed in this bill, there will be continuing issues for trans people in our state. These include:

  • a lack of access to medical services, including financial access to surgery and the provision of a specialised, publicly funded medical service to the broader gender-diverse community;
  • the prohibitive time and cost stemming from the need for a Magistrates Court to approve applications for the recognition of change of sex and the issue of recognition certificates for people under 18; and
  • the issues faced by prisoners, who are unable to access private medical care with regard to gender dysphoria.

However, now I have done my duty in saying that the fight has been long and that there are still many battles to fight, I will outline the extreme positives within this piece of legislation. Allowing a person to register their change of sex or gender identity with the Births, Deaths and Marriages registrar, without invasive surgery, will change the lives of trans and gender-diverse people, offering them the autonomy that they have long deserved. I have constituents who will now be comfortable to apply for a driver's licence, to attend social events and live everyday life with their identifying documents that reflect who they are, not who someone, somewhere told them they once were.

Likewise, removing the archaic requirement for someone to divorce their partner before allowing them to register must be the only loophole in any piece of law in this state where conservative politicians argue in support of divorce. We have heard some unsettling arguments on this particular provision, but in reality it will be those people who do have supportive personal relationships and are married who will be able to maintain that status quo—something I would have thought the conservatives would support—while they go through what is undoubtedly an incredibly introspective and torrid chapter of their lives.

These requirements have been on our books for far too long now and, in this final week of sitting, I hope we will see this landmark bill reach this place and, indeed, see the Premier later this week making an apology to members of this and the broader rainbow communities. I commend the Weatherill Labor government for its actions, but I hope they do not forget the many people whose lives do not revolve around our often exclusive and fickle parliaments and who are not around to see these mammoth reforms this week.

I would like, in particular, to thank Zoey Campbell of the gender identity reform group, who organised and attended a briefing with members of parliament earlier this month on this particular bill. She has long worked and has long educated me and other members of parliament on this issue and, indeed, has been a uniting force in the community, bringing the information required to address the law reform needed to a point where it was manageable and directed. We are seeing some of the fruits of not just Zoey's labour but of the many people who have sat in many meetings about these particular issues.

I have certainly been privileged to hear personal stories—the stories of realisation, of transition, of fear and of courage—and I thank all of those people for sharing those stories with me and with others. It is not easy sharing those things, particularly when quite often you simply want to pass and you do not want to be noticed at all.

I commend those members of the community, particularly the trans community, who have stood up and been noticed, have made their voices loud and clear and have worked together, despite each of them having incredibly different stories. They are more than pieces of paper, but this bill today will ensure that those pieces of paper, when the bureaucracy comes up against them in their lives, will no longer define them, or will ensure that they will be pieces of paper that they are proud to carry.

I commend the recent work of the government on this bill yet again and look forward to further debates to progress these rainbow forms. 

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