Queensland lawyers are urging the State Government to take more time to address “unintended consequences” flowing from law changes to modernise birth certificates.
Queensland Law Society has provided ‘in-principle’ support to proposed changes in the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Bill 2022.
However, the Society has flagged some concerns that the legislation is being rushed ahead of today’s public hearings on the Bill before the parliamentary Legal Affairs and Safety Committee.
The committee has received a staggering 365 submissions in the six-week consultation period since the Bill was first tabled in Parliament on 2 December (2022).
Only 13 of those who made submissions have been invited to make oral submissions during public hearings before the committee starting at 8.45am.
Last month Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman released a statement saying the Bill would ensure the state’s registration services would remain “relevant, responsive and contemporary”.
“We (the government) are committed to strengthening the legal recognition of trans and gender diverse people, and better recognising contemporary family and parenting in our modern society,” Ms Fentiman said.
She said that, under the new legislation, people would no longer be required to have undergone sexual reassignment surgery to formally register a change of sex.
“The current Act unnecessarily medicalises the recognition of a person’s lived identity,” she said. “In addition, surgery is not always appropriate for trans people, and can be inaccessible and unaffordable as it is not covered by Medicare.
“This is about making sure that a person’s legal identity matches their lived identity, and will bring Queensland into line with most other jurisdictions.”
The Government claims that the Bill will establish two pathways to alter the record of sex of a child aged under 16, namely by parents or a guardian applying directly to the registrar where particular criteria are met, or through the Childrens Court.
According to the committee website, the key objectives of the Bill are to:
- strengthen the legal recognition of trans and gender diverse people
- better recognise contemporary family and parenting structures
- facilitate improvements in the operations of the registry
- support fraud prevention and minimise misuse of the life event system
- clarify the information collection, use and sharing powers of the registrar.
A briefing paper released by the committee last week noted that one-fifth of organisations and a number of individuals had submitted the “timeframe for submissions was far too short”.
QLS, in its 14-page submission from 2022 President Kara Thomson on 21 December, said it was concerned with “continually short timeframes to respond to important legislation”.
“QLS supports the Bill’s objective to strengthen the legal recognition of trans and gender diverse people and better recognise contemporary family and parenting structures,” Ms Thomson said.
“However, we do consider the Bill as currently drafted may give rise to some unintended consequences.”
Ms Thomson noted that, due to the limited consultation period, there had been insufficient time provided to address all of the Society’s concerns.
“There are likely a wide range of other issues which we have not had the time nor opportunity to consider in detail,” she said
“If we have not commented on other aspects of the Bill, it should not be taken as assent or support.”