LGBTIQ advocates welcome equality reform in SA Parliament, but have concern over amendments

The South Australian upper house has passed a suite of bills that will advance equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) South Australians. The bills proposed a range of reforms including recognizing the relationships and families of same-sex couples and improved access to birth certificates for transgender and intersex people.

Anna Brown, Director of Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre said, “With all the attention on marriage equality, it’s easy to forget that LGBTIQ South Australians face discrimination in many other areas of law that impact on people’s day to day lives. These reforms represent a much needed tidy up of the statute book that recognise our relationships and ability to be loving parents, and allow trans people to be recognised as who they are.”

Amendment to Surrogacy Eligibility Bill
An amendment, proposed by Family First member Dennis Hood, allowing doctors to refuse to provide assisted reproductive treatment to LGBTI couples and single people if they ‘conscientiously object’ was added to the Statutes Amendment (Surrogacy Eligibility) Bill 2016 and succeeded in passing the Legislative Council. This means the amended Bill will need to return to the Legislative Assembly for consideration and is likely to face opposition from MPs that are supportive of equality.

Zoey Campbell, spokesperson for the South Australian Rainbow Advocacy Alliance, welcomed the passage of the Bills in the upper house but voiced strong concerns about this amendment. 

“For too many years South Australia has lagged behind other states and our community has suffered the pain and indignity of discrimination entrenched in the law. We will now have the benefit of formal relationship recognition and equal access to adoption, surrogacy and assisted reproductive technology. However, the amendment misapplies the notion of conscientious objection to justify discrimination, with no evidence that service providers support anything other than equal access to the benefits of fertility treatment. It makes individual discrimination lawful against would be LGBTIQ parents for no better reason than personal prejudice,” said Ms Campbell. 

The HRLC’s Anna Brown said the amended version of the bill also raised legal concerns.

“Not only is this amendment unnecessary and offensive but it contemplates discrimination that would be unlawful under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), raising the risk of constitutional invalidity and legal risks for individual doctors and service providers,” added Ms Brown. 

Gender Identity Reforms
The Births, Deaths and Marriages (Gender Identity) Amendment Act 2016 will allow trans and gender diverse people to access birth certificates in their true gender without the need for invasive or unnecessary surgery. The bill was reintroduced with amendments (raising the age of application from 16 to 18 years old) after it initially failed to pass the lower house in September.

Ethan, is a 17 year old transgender teen who is hoping to take advantage of the changes in South Australia to have his birth certificate recognise him as male.   

“I realised when I was about 3 or 4 and even though I didn’t know what trans was I just couldn’t relate to being a girl. I can’t wait to have my birth certificate reflect my true gender. I won’t have to be scared or worried about my high school certificate saying that I’m a girl, or people finding out when I apply for a job,” said Ethan.

Ethan’s mum, Sarah Pinkie, has been supporting her son since they talked about his gender identity a couple of years ago.

“Ethan is such a great kid and it’s been really hard watching him go through such a difficult time and not be able to make everything better for him. As his mum, I’m just really grateful he’ll be able to get his birth certificate changed. Not only will it be incredibly validating for him and boost his confidence but it will be really important at a practical level and remove one more source of discrimination in his life,” said Ms Pinkie.

Ms Pinkie has been helping Ethan seek treatment and counselling and more recently has been briefing members of parliament about the importance of the gender identity legislation.  

“Even the new process won’t be easy for people under 18 and I hope that one day politicians will realise trans kids are even more vulnerable and need to be supported and have access to high quality medical care, not confronted with scary court processes and judges that don’t understand the issues they face,” added Ms Pinkie.