Mothballed gender self-ID law will pass this year, Minister says

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 14 Mar 2021, 3:29PM
Jan Tinetti, the new Minister of Internal Affairs, Minister for Women and Associate Minister of Education. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Jan Tinetti, the new Minister of Internal Affairs, Minister for Women and Associate Minister of Education. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Mothballed gender self-ID law will pass this year, Minister says

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 14 Mar 2021, 3:29PM

A law that would allow anyone to legally self-identify their gender in a much easier way will soon be thrust on to Cabinet's agenda after it was mothballed two years ago.

Minister for Women and Internal Affairs Jan Tinetti has told the Herald she has made getting this legislation passed into law this year a priority for her.

"I am urgently progressing work to enable the Cabinet decision, [which is] required to get the bill moving," she said.

This will come as welcome news to New Zealand's transgender community, which has been pushing for the law change for more than a decade.

But critics of the proposal will no doubt push back as the bill goes through the House.

The legislation – Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration bill – was introduced in August 2017.

Within that bill, there is a clause that would make it a lot easier for people to pick their gender on their birth certificate.

Currently, if someone wants to legally change their gender they need approval from a doctor or a judge.

Medical evidence of a sex change has to be provided as well.

Currently, roughly 20 to 25 people go through this process every year.

In some cases, someone who wants to change their gender on their birth certificate needs to go through the family court – a process that could take up to a year.

But the legislation would change that so that the only thing needed was a statutory declaration – an official written statement.

The bill had passed its first reading, but then the gender self-ID clause was added during the select committee process.

There were some legal complications around this clause, according to then minister Tracey Martin, who was in charge of the bill.

"Work needed to be done to make sure if we change a law in this way, that the downstream effects around a whole lot of other bits and pieces of New Zealand law are appropriately dealt with," she told TVNZ at the time.

Those downstream effects, according to Martin, include working out the process when it comes to schools.

"If a young person, who had changed their gender through the statutory declaration from male to female, wanted to enrol in a girl's school – what is the position of the girl's school?"

Issues such as this, she said, had not been worked through so advice from the Government's legal department was that the bill should be put on hold until these issues were hammered out.

Previously when asked about the bill, Tinetti has said that "no decisions have been made" and that she was "still considering the best way forward".

But she has changed her tune, telling the Herald: "This Government is committed to making it easier for people to formally acknowledge their identified gender".

"It is my priority to pass the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration bill this year."

She agreed with the Select Committee that a self-ID provision was needed in the bill.

"I understand the frustrations from communities who have been fighting for these changes since 2007, and I am urgently progressing work to enable the Cabinet decisions required to get the bill moving."