Marriage Equality in NSW and an End to Forced Divorce for Trans People

Jenny was thrilled to support a bill bringing NSW into line with commonwealth marriage equality laws, and finally putting an end to forced divorce for Trans people.


Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (12:48): It is amazing how in this place we have managed to turn something as passionate and personal as love into something known as the "Miscellaneous Acts Amendment (Marriages) Bill 2018". Congratulations to us for turning something that is about such joy and personal hope into the most bureaucratic-sounding bill ever. While the name of the bill might sound a little tedious, it is wonderful to be in the Chamber with the member for Sydney to hear members from all sides and of all political stripes speak in support of marriage equality and the important changes to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1995 and many other pieces of legislation that will enact the reality of marriage equality in New South Wales.

The Greens strongly support the bill because it brings New South Wales legislation into line with Commonwealth legislation in enshrining marriage equality across this country. In December 2017, marriage in Australia was recognised as being between two people regardless of their sex or gender. The gender-specific language used in current State legislation means that marriage equality has not been a reality for many people. This legislation enables us to catch up and to do what is required to deliver full marriage equality across this State. The Greens' position was always clear that New South Wales legislation needed to catch up with Commonwealth legislation, and that is what has happened. I joined my Greens colleague Senator Janet Rice in writing to the Premier in February, urging her to take on board the celebration that occurred in response to the result of the marriage equality postal survey and the massive support for the Yes campaign and to enact changes in this State's legislation. It is wonderful that we are achieving that today.

The debate about marriage equality has had a huge impact on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer [LGBTIQ] community and their families, friends and loved ones. The sad reality is that the divisive postal vote was never necessary. We gave unanimous support to a motion moved in this Chamber in support of calling on our Federal parliamentary colleagues to act and to make those changes themselves. Sadly, many people—some prominent leaders in the LGBTIQ community—are still suffering from the hurt, damage and hate that they confronted during that divisive survey. I remind them that sometimes we win, and this time we won. It is truly phenomenal to know that we have realised marriage equality not only in this State but also across the country, and that people will now be able to celebrate their love free from discrimination.

Being subjected to discrimination because one is seen as different is particularly harmful for young people. The member for Sydney provided some stark statistics reflecting the impact that discrimination has on young LGBTIQ and gender-questioning people. It is important that we do everything we can to remove that discrimination from our legislation. The member for Sydney acknowledged the work done by my Greens colleague Dr Mehreen Faruqi in 2014 in introducing a bill designed to achieve reform. I make a commitment to work with the member for Sydney and any other member of this place or the other place to advance the much-needed additional reforms dealing with trans rights in this State. New South Wales legislation requires a trans person to undergo surgical intervention before being eligible to change their gender on their birth certificate. Unfortunately, this bill does not seek to remove that requirement.

Many organisations are concerned about the impact this provision is having. It goes beyond the issue of marriage to the fundamental right of people to live free from discrimination and to have the right to be identified as they wish without being required to undergo surgical intervention. The Human Rights Law Centre provided a briefing to many members and said that this bill does not remove the other legal barriers to recognition of sex and gender in the Birth, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1995, which includes surgery and medical evidence requirements, limited sex and gender categories, and a limitation applying to those under the age of 18. As representatives of the diverse communities of New South Wales, it is important that we address the needs of those who feel excluded, who are experiencing discrimination, and who are being hurt or harmed as a result of bureaucratic decisions and processes that prevent them from living the lives they want to live while having their choices respected. I make a commitment today to work with the member for Sydney and across party lines to ensure that we address these concerns as a priority.

It is wonderful to hear wedding bells ringing out across the country—but perhaps there are not many because these wedding ceremonies are probably not being held in churches. That is my Adelaide heritage emerging; as members know, it is the city of churches. However, the weddings occurring across the country are giving us the space to work with the LGBTIQ community to achieve other reforms. Anti-discrimination legislation in this State must be updated. We must also push for trans law reform and address religious exemptions and preventing discrimination on the basis of sex and gender. The Greens are committed to pushing for these reforms and to delivering them. We cannot celebrate marriage equally without recognising that other reforms must be achieved. Ms Paige, the spokesperson for Transhealth Australia, said that Australia still had some way to go before all discrimination against trans people was removed. She continued:

This is a step in the right direction but trans people are still required to undergo invasive surgery before they can change their legal sex. Much more reform is needed to bring birth certificate laws in Victoria and New South Wales and many other States into line with best practice worldwide.

I make a commitment to work to ensure that we advance that goal today. I conclude by personally thanking Senator Janet Rice, who has responsibility for this portfolio area in the Federal Parliament. I also thank her partner, Penny Whetton. It is perhaps the most extreme and moving experience to advocate for legislative reform when it has a direct personal impact. Janet and Penny have been tireless campaigners for marriage equality and to have their marriage recognised in law. That is incredibly powerful, and they deserve credit and support for their amazing efforts in campaigning so publicly about something that impacts them not only from a principled perspective but also from a very personal perspective. I pay tribute to them for their tireless efforts.

It is wonderful to be in this Chamber with the member for Sydney, who has shown strong leadership on marriage equality. He has demonstrated much more patience with the political argy-bargy than I could have demonstrated to deliver this reform. It is an honour to have been part of the Yes campaign. I remember being heckled in 2004 by members of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby when I was a Greens candidate because I was talking about marriage equality. Apparently I should not have done so because the Labor Party was not committed to it. It appeared that The Greens were exposing Labor's hypocrisy. All these years later, it is good to know that we are all on the same page. I will never again be heckled by the lobby or anyone else upstairs at the Newtown Hotel for campaigning for marriage equality.

We have achieved change and I look forward to pushing the agenda, which is what The Greens do. We must identify the reforms that still need to be delivered. Everyone shouted me down and told me that I was being unrealistic and that these changes would never happen. Now, a decade later, we are debating this legislation. I look forward to being heckled again when I campaign for further reforming legislation.

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