New proposed law in Australia could land you in court for failing to use transgender terms by making it illegal to say 'he' or 'she'
The law will also allow parents in Tasmania to decide if their child's gender appears on birth certificates and will allow people aged 16 or older to change their gender legally
Legal experts have warned that the use of pronouns such as "he" and "she" could land people in Australia in court under Tasmania's new controversial transgender rights reforms. The reforms, that were put forward by Labor opposition the Greens, are being described as "a landmark", but also slammed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison as "ridiculous" because they may also include a provision that would make it illegal for members of the public to refuse to name other people by their preferred pronoun.
The proposed laws will also allow parents in Tasmania to choose whether their child's gender is recorded on birth certificates and will allow people aged 16 or older to change their gender legally.
The Daily Mail reported that the bill was passed in the lower house in Tasmania in November and is now set to go through the state's 15-member upper house in order to be passed as a law. Nine of the members in the upper house are said to be independents.
Dr. Greg Walsh, from the University of Notre Dame Australia, said that the reforms were more or less "admirable", but also slammed the government's move of dictating how people use pronouns as "completely unacceptable". He told The Australian in an interview: "The Tasmanian parliament's proposed changes to its anti-discrimination legislation could make it illegal for a person to not accept a transgender person's gender identity."
Dr. Walsh continued: "Although it is admirable that parliamentarians want to ensure those who are transgender are respected, the attempt to use state power to force individuals to use language that contradicts their deeply held beliefs is completely unacceptable."
Advance Australia, a conservative activist group, has described the proposed changes as a "slippery slope", "compelled speech", and even asked: "What's next?". Gerard Benedet, the national director of the organization, told the paper: "If a trans person said to me, 'I would prefer it if you called me or address me by X', out of respect, you would do it. But the government has no place telling you that you must say that."
The changes were passed last month by the casting vote of Sue Hickey, Tasmania's Liberal Speaker, who went against her party and voted with the Labor and the Greens. Liberal Attorney-General Elise Archer has, however, said that the amendments are extremely flawed. She said in a statement in November: "This amended bill contains legally untested, unconsulted and highly problematic changes that we could not support."
[1/2] A Liberal National Government will never remove gender from birth certificates, licenses and passports – who are Labor kidding? Get real. https://t.co/CLk70qL3rI— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) October 31, 2018
Meanwhile, Transforming Tasmania, a transgender and gender-diverse rights group, has applauded the proposed changes. The Labors and Greens have also given their thumbs up for the new bill.
Cassy O'Connor, the Greens leader, told the parliament: "These changes will make people, who we should all care about, feel happier, safer and more included."
Prime Minister Morrison previously slammed the debate over the removal of gender markers from passports and birth certificates in Twitter posts. He wrote: "A Liberal national government will never remove gender from birth certificates, licenses, and passports — who are Labor kidding? Get real. This is the problem with Labor, obsessed with nonsense like removing gender from birth certificates rather than lower electricity prices, reducing tax for hard-working families and small businesses."
[2/2] This is the problem with Labor, obsessed with nonsense like removing gender from birth certificates rather than lower electricity prices, reducing tax for hard-working families and small businesses.— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) October 31, 2018
Campaigners for the cause immediately condemned the Prime Minister's remarks by saying they were "outdated" and a "totally inappropriate" attack against the LGBTQIA+ community.
Sally Goldner, a spokesperson for the Transgender Victoria, said in an interview: "Yet again, we see a destructive statement from someone in a position of prominence and influence. To attempt to link the words transgender and nonsense is vilification and totally inappropriate."