What is the Births Deaths and Marriages Act?

In 2016 the Minister of Internal Affairs conducted a review of the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act.

The review found that the current law needed changing, especially in regards to the invasive processes which trans people are subjected to if they want to correct the gender on their birth certificate.

An amendment to the law was introduced to Parliament in August 2017, and it passed its first reading in December 2017. The amendments were then reviewed by a Select Committee which invited public submissions for and against the proposed changes, and conducted independent research on what the best outcome should be.

In August 2018, the Governance and Administration Select Committee reported back on the submissions they heard. The report included strong recommendations to make it easier for trans people to correct the gender markers on their birth certificates. The report also recommended the option for people to select “x” instead of “male” or “female” as their gender marker.

Currently, in order for trans people to change the gender on their birth certificate they must involve the family court and give evidence of extensive (and often unavailable) medical interventions. That’s out of step with the process for changing passports and drivers licences which just requires a statutory declaration in front of a Justice of the Peace. 

The suggested amendments represent a major improvement of the current system and would bring the legislation in line with an increasing number of places including Malta, Norway, Denmark, Portugal, Ireland, Belgium and the state of California.

The United Nations supports these changes, saying “While every person must be protected from discrimination and violence, the risk for trans and gender-diverse persons is exacerbated when their name and sex details in official documents do not match their gender identity or expression: as recorded by United Nations human rights mechanisms, trans persons have been subjected to harassment, humiliation, abuse or arrest upon attempting to report the attacks and seek police protection, based, inter alia, on the fact that their self-determined gender was not recognized in their official documents.”

But in order for these changes to become law, the majority of our MPs need to vote in favour of it. This is where you come in.

To help change the law please write to your MP. It’s especially helpful if you can add details of why these changes are important to you, but there’s a template you can use if you’d prefer not to get personal.

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Why do some people oppose these proposed changes?

Recently there has been a concerted effort by a small but vocal group of transphobic people claiming to be feminists, bolstered by a similar campaign run in the UK to oppose trans people’s right to self identify their gender.

Local transphobic campaigners are backed by a large group of extremely bigoted international social media accounts, many of which are controlled by extreme right wing and religious fundamentalists.

This article from the Southern Poverty Law Centre helps explains the relationships between the groups driving the campaign.

Campaigners are making claims about predators using the proposed law changes to gain access to vulnerable people. These claims are manufactured and intended to create a moral panic. Evidence shows that no such incidents have been reported in countries where these changes have been made.

It’s important to remember that anybody making changes to markers on their birth certificates would make a statutory declaration in front of a Justice of the Peace under penalty of perjury. The ability to more easily change the gender marker on your birth certificate can’t be carried out on a whim or with dubious intent. The changes proposed simply brings the process for changing all major forms of identification in line with one another.

Further reading

Read the Parliamentary report on the proposed amendments to the Act.

See what stages the proposed changes are currently at.

Read how the amendments will help protect trans people.