Simon Corbell Photo: Rohan Thomson
The ACT government has called on the other states and territory to follow its lead in introducing laws to recognise transgender and intersex people in identity documents.
A month after the ACT passed historic same-sex marriage legislation, Attorney-General Simon Corbell moved on Thursday to enact the "final piece" in the government's legislative reforms for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer people in Canberra.
The bill, if passed by the Legislative Assembly next year, will remove the requirement for surgery for people who want to change their gender on their birth certificate.
The laws will also allow for the creation of a new category of identity on birth certificates for people who are intersex or identify as being of indeterminate or unspecified sex, bringing the territory into line with the categories used by the Australian Passport Office.
The proposed changes follow the Law Reform Advisory Council's Beyond the Binary report, which described the present rules governing the alteration of birth certificates as "inhumane".
Mr Corbell said the bill addressed "outstanding matters" for the government and would significantly assist transgender and intersex people in day-to-day transactions that required identity documents.
The ACT is poised to become the first jurisdiction to remove the requirement that a person must have surgery before they can change their gender on their birth certificate.
Mr Corbell said other state and territory governments should take similar steps to remove legal obstacles for the transgender and intersex community.
"What we do know is that there are court cases being heard in other jurisdictions on exactly these same questions," he said.
"It would be far better for governments to respond to these important issues of personal identity by amending the law in a similar manner to the way the ACT has proposed.''
Advocacy group A Gender Agenda welcomed the bill on Thursday as "a great move forward".
"So much of the discrimination comes about when people have to produce documents that out them as transgender or intersex," executive director Peter Hyndal said.
Heidi Yates, chair of the ACT LGBTIQ advisory council, said: "The ACT is leading the way in removing the surgical requirement to change a person's sex on a birth certificate."
But Organisation Intersex International Australia said neither of the two national intersex organisations had been engaged in talks before the bill was presented in the Assembly.
Its president, Morgan Carpenter, said it was cautiously supportive of the reforms but hoped the government would consult groups on the detail in the bill before it was passed.
"We need recognition that intersex people have as diverse a range of gender identities as non-intersex people, including female, male, both, and neither," Morgan Carpenter said.
"If identification documents still need to contain information on sex or gender, then that information should be appropriate for both intersex and gender diverse people."
Sallyanne McLachlan, a member of A Gender Agenda's management committee, applauded from the public gallery after the bill was introduced on Thursday.
Ms Mclachlan said she had been transitioning from male to female for the past 2½ years and had recently changed her name on her birth certificate.
"It's great that we can have our names changed but we haven't been able to have any gender changes on our birth certificate," she said. "I think this is an amazing start.''
Ms McLachlan said it was good to see the ACT putting its best foot forward and ''showing the rest of the country that even though we're a small municipality we can move mountains".