Birth Certificate changes welcomed by takatāpui, trans and non-binary people

Today’s announced changes to the process for amending gender markers on birth certifciates are welcomed by takatāpui, trans and non-binary people.

“This small but significant change will make it fairer for those in our communities, who do not have the resources to use the existing Family Court process,” said Sally Dellow.

Ms Dellow was speaking on behalf of people and organisations who released a joint statement today outlining the benefits of updating the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act (BDMRRA) 1995.

New Zealand’s passports and driver licence processes are recognised as international good practice for trans and non-binary people. Proposals announced today would introduce similar processes for updating gender markers on a New Zealand birth certificate. New Zealand will join a dozen other countries that already follow such a self-declaration approach.

“Most people in our communities can change their New Zealand passport or driver licence, but it does not match their birth certificate. That can cause significant problems when a birth certificate needs to be shown as proof of identity,” said Ms Dellow.

Today’s joint statement is supported by takatāpui, trans and non-binary people and organisations, parents of transgender and gender diverse children; national health, women’s and Rainbow organisations; legal and health academics, and former Human Rights Commissioners. It calls for the 23-year-old BDMRRA to be amended to reflect the current passports policy, by:

  • replacing a Family Court application with a statutory declaration process that enables a people to affirm their self-defined gender identity
  • removing any other eligibility requirements, such as the need for medical evidence and
  • enabling gender markers to be recognised as male, female, or as a third, non-binary gender.

“We are delighted that the Select Committee’s recommendations reflect this approach,” said Ms Dellow. “This makes a huge difference to takatāpui, trans and non-binary people when they get married, have children, sign their parent’s death certificate, or have to show their birth certificate. It has no impact on the equivalent rights for other people.”

Moving to a simple, administrative process will reduce cost for takatāpui, trans and non-binary people, and free up the time of Family Court staff, judges, and of health professionals who have supplied the required medical evidence.

Ms Dellow said, “We hope to continue dialogue with the government on how to provide some form of identity verification document that recognises and protects refugees, asylum seekers, and new migrants who cannot amend documents in their home country and are not permanent residents here.”

“In addition, there is a need for ongoing consultation with our communities in case there are ways the Bill can be improved through its second reading.”

The Select Committee has recommended that any enacted changes are reviewed after five years. “International human rights standards and good practice are evolving fast in this area,” said Ms Dellow. “A two-year review would help New Zealand keep pace with change, so we can continue to demonstrate what it means to fully respect the dignity, equality, and security of all who live here. Our communities expect to be consulted as part of such a review.”

[collective statement from community orgs and individuals]