Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Transgender unsuccessful in getting birth certificate changed

In AB v Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, the applicant who was born male, but had had gender reassignment surgery to female, sought to have the birth certificate details changed from "male" to female".

She had already successfully applied to have her changed name recognised on the birth certificate.

The Registrar refused to allow the change of gender on the certificate, because the Victorian Act required the applicant to be married. The applicant was married but separated.

The applicant applied to the Federal Court on the basis that the Victorian legislation was discriminatory on the basis of her marital status within the meaning of the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act. She was unsuccessful.

Justice Heery held that the provision of the Sex Discrimination Act was legislation:

and not some other form of governmental activity (such as, for example, public education or governmental employment practices) is part of Australia’s discharge of its obligation to legislate as required by the Convention. It is therefore to be construed as prohibiting discrimination against women – treating them less favourably than men – because they are married. The action of the Registrar in the present case had nothing to do with the applicant’s being a woman. Had the applicant been a man, the result of the application would have been the same.


Given that it takes only one year to pass to be eligible to be divorced, all the applicant had to do to avoid the effects of the legislation was to wait for the year to expire, divorce and then apply- and it should have gone through smoothly.

In Queensland, former Attorney-General Rod Welford ruled that in a case in which I acted, the act of marriage applied to those marrying in Australia only. As my client married outside Australia, she could still obtain the change of gender on the certificate.

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