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Changing sex on birth certificate one step closer

Internal Affairs Minister Jan Tinetti. Photo: Daniel Hines/SunLive.

Legislation that will make it easier for people to change the sex on their birth certificates is one step closer to becoming law.

The Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill passed its second reading on Wednesday with support from all political parties.

Under the bill, people would no longer have to go through the Family Court or show evidence of medical treatment to change the sex on their birth certificate.

The second reading may have got through unopposed, but its passage through Parliament has not been easy.

It passed its first reading at the end of 2017 and went to select committee for public feedback.

Clauses enabling people to change their birth certificates were added at select committee in 2018, following a petition.

That was done after public submissions had already closed ultimately leading to the bill being put on the back burner.

That was until the bill was picked up by Internal Affairs Minister Jan Tinetti.

"This government is committed to making sure we have the best process for transgender, non-binary and intersex New Zealanders to formally acknowledge their gender.

"As the Minister of Internal Affairs it upsets me to know information provided on a birth certificate can be a cause of such stress for so many people. It's important that we get this right for all New Zealanders.

Usually after passing the second reading a bill goes back to MPs to make final amendments, but in this case it is going back to the public to have a say.

Tinetti says she wants to hear more from Māori, Pasifika people, the country's diverse ethnic communities and young people.

Groups like Speak Up For Women are worried what the changes might mean for women-only spaces.

National Party spokesperson for women Nicola Grigg told Parliament the party supported advancing the rights of transgendered people, but the public should have their say on the bill.

"While I hold a seat on the Governance and Administration I'll ensure your voice is heard. For that I might be called a TERF - a trans-exclusionary radical feminist - but I'd like to assure this House I am neither exclusionary or radical," she says.

Tinetti says confusing information was being circulated about the bill and she wanted to put the record straight.

"To be clear, you can already change the gender on a birth certificate. The change of your gender on your passport and a licence can already happen.

"The bill does not propose changes to the way we collect or record sex information at birth."

She says the changes will not threaten the rights of any other New Zealanders, but will have a big impact on those who are transgender, non binary, takatāpui and intersex.

A point picked up by Labour's Tamati Coffey, who in his speech in the House noted the submission made by the group Intersex trust Aotearoa New Zealand.

"They talked about applying for a job using a birth certificate, which might be the only ID you have, the potential discrimination in the hiring process and the trauma," he said.

If the bill passes into law, New Zealand will join 15 other countries and two Australian states which have introduced similar laws since 2012.

More information is in the Department of Internal Affairs' factsheet about the proposed new process for amending the sex shown on a birth certificate.

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