25 Feb 2019

Births, deaths and marriages bill deferred to allow more public consultation

6:19 pm on 25 February 2019

The government is deferring a bill to allow public consultation on a clause which would allow people to change the sex on their birth certificate through an administrative process.

Minister for Children Tracey Martin

Tracey Martin said changes made to the bill by the select committee occurred without adequate public consultation. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

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

The bill started as a way to update old laws and develop digital and online ways of accessing births, deaths and marriages information, a statement from Ms Martin said.

"However, significant changes were made to the Bill by the select committee around gender self-identification and this occurred without adequate public consultation. This has created a fundamental legal issue."

Ms Martin said she supports the suggested change and wants to make it easier for people to formally acknowledge their identified gender.

The select committee changes introduced clauses allowing individuals to change the sex on their birth certificate via an administrative process based on self-identification. This is a substantial change from the current Family Court process that requires evidence of medical treatment.

Ms 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.

She said Crown Law Office has also advised there are legal issues which need to be clarified.

Ms Martin said the Family Court process can be costly and some individuals find it "intimidating" and "adversarial".

She said she has asked her officials to look at the following issues to try and improve the process in the short-term:

  • Any Births, Deaths and Marriages fees associated with applications to update sex on birth certificates and with associated name changes can be removed;
  • Successful applications can lead to gender records on passports and citizenship certificates being automatically updated to make it easier for applicants; and
  • Requirements of the current process can be made clearer, such as what is required when providing medical evidence.

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