On 10 February 2016, the independent South Australian Law Reform Institute, based at the Adelaide University Law School, released its Report on the legal recognition of sex and gender under South Australian law as part of its broader reference to examine South Australian laws that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender or intersex status
In its consultation, the Institute heard from a number of individuals who cannot have their true gender identity recognised under present South Australian law, or who are forced into binary gender norms that do not accurately reflect their lived experience. The Institute heard in its consultation (reflecting wider research) of the negative effects of this.
The Institute suggested a set of recommendations that would allow an adult to change their registered sex in the same way that they can change their registered name. That is, without the current need to undergo invasive medical treatments and/or appear before a court. The Institute suggested that a person could indicate sex or gender as ‘Other’ and then describe their own gender identity in their own words. These changes would have similar safeguards relating to fraud and identity as the existing change of name regime and additional safeguards to ensure that an application by a child is determined with regard to the best interest of the child.
On 4 August 2016, the South Australian Government introduced the Births, Deaths and Marriages (Gender Identity) Amendment Bill as part of its response to the Institute’s Report. The Government acknowledged the roles of the Institute and a Report of the Legislative Review Committee of the State Parliament in the formulation of the latest Bill.
The Bill seeks to streamline and update the process for those wanting to change their sex or gender registered on the Births Deaths and Marriages Register. Although the Births, Deaths and Marriages (Gender Identity) Amendment Bill does not adopt all of the Institute’s recommendations, it responds to a number of the changes recommended by the Institute such as to repeal the problematic Sexual Reassignment Act 1988.
In introducing the Bill, the Premier, the Hon Jay Weatherill, in his comments in Parliament, said:
‘I remain strongly committed to ensuring that discrimination based on LGBTIQ status or gender is struck from our statute book. It is not good enough that we continue to have people feeling unsafe or undervalued in our community. As stated in the Australian Human Rights Commission’s 2015 Report, Resilient Individuals, ‘most Australians take their identity documents for granted.’ For many in our community, these changes will have little or no impact, but for those who are impacted, these changes will be profound.’
The Parliament will now consider the Bill.