Dickens: Gender ID backdown is latest Government 'cock-up'

Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 26 February 2019, 12:25PM
Tracey Martin has delayed plans to make changes to birth certificates. (Photo / NZ Herald)

This Government is lurching towards another embarrassing stuff up, either based on their naiveté, or their incompetence, or a belief they can do whatever they like because they know best.

Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin has announced that the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill will be deferred to deal with problems caused by the select committee process.

This is the bill that streamlines these administrative processes as they try to make it easier to do the paperwork online.  But it also attracted some controversy when it outlined ways for transgender people to self-identify their gender. It’s a big change from the current regime which is a Family Court process that requires evidence of medical advice and treatment.

This change caused a lot of surprise and condemnation when it came to light and a lot of mickey taking.  Callers to talkback were amazed that you might be able to change something as fundamental as your gender without a burden of third party impartial proof and assessment.  I had people texting me and asking that if they self-identified as wealthy or attractive would it work?

So why has the whole idea been put on hold?  Did the government just get cold feet, the way they've been getting cold feet on all sorts of transformative policies they've floated?

Tracey Martin said there has been inadequate public consultation given how significant the proposed changes are and the clauses were added at select committee after submissions on the bill had closed. Can I just repeat that - clauses added after submissions had closed!

Frankly, this is worse than the Government thinking it went too far.  This is a fundamental cock up, if you’ll excuse the term, but it feels apt. 

The whole point of select committees is to raise some ideas, prepare some legislation and ask for submissions on the proposed rules and after three readings come up with some laws.  If you throw in un-notified changes after submissions close, you are flaunting the entire process of making law.

At its worst, you could call it authoritarian and dictatorial.  We’ll just make up whatever law we like and enforce it. 

Well done to Crown Law for picking this up, but it raises some big questions about the way this Government is working.  Are they just stupid?  Or do they have a radical agenda they’re trying to sneak under the radar?

Meanwhile, transgender activists are quite upset the whole things been put on hold.  What about all those people that have differing genders on their driving licences and their birth certificates when it comes to a situation where they need two IDs. Well frankly that’s not enough an excuse to throw away the democratic process.

What about students forced to wear the wrong uniforms or go to the wrong toilet? One thing I know from the families I have known dealing with this stuff is that negotiation and communication amongst the affected parties is always what is needed most rather than a law.

I also know from families facing these gender issues is that self-identification is obviously the first step. But before you can be granted the power to change legal documents, however you feel, there has to be a burden of proof and approval from an independent third party.  At the moment, that’s the family court.  That could change, but providing independent evidence should not.


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