Minister responds after 'big call' to defer bill to make gender self-identification easier

Source: 1News

NZ First MP and Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin has deferred a bill that would make it easier for people to self-identify their gender, after receiving advice from Crown Law. 

The bill would make it easier for people to pick their gender on birth certificates. It would mean there wouldn't need to be approval from a doctor or judge to change gender, instead just a statutory declaration.

The move has sparked criticism, however the Internal Affairs Minister said the change had been added during Select Committee stage and there had been a lack of consultation around the implications of self-identifying gender. 

Currently, a person who is transgender who wants to change their stated gender must go through the Family Court, a process that can take up to a year. 

On TVNZ1's Q+A, Ms Martin said the decision to defer the bill was a "big call". 

"I am aware there are New Zealanders that this is really, really important to... With Crown Law advice given to me that says that the work needed to be done to make sure if we change a law in this way, that the down stream effects around a whole lot of other bits and pieces of New Zealand law are appropriately dealt with, has not been done at this point."

When asked by host Corin Dann about the magnitude of any potential side effects compared to "giving trans people the human rights they've been pushing for for a very long time", Ms Martin said, "that's part of the questions we need to answer". 

Ms Martin acknowledged there were dignity and financial barriers in the Family Court process, "so I've asked the Department of Internal Affairs to very quickly come back to me with advice". 

She said there was no pressure from her NZ First colleagues to put the bill on hold.

When asked if she personally supported self-identification, Ms Martin said, "I would like them, whoever they are, to be honoured in our society". 

"This bill was quite simple when it went into the House, the Select Committee put this in and did not do this work.

"If we look at the UK and those areas they had four months of consultation on this. It would have been really helpful if the Select Committee had reopened submissions after they put these into the bill so we could have had a longer conversation about this and make this right to start with.

"I can't make partial law."

When asked if she believed the original bill would have had implications for women, Ms Martin, "I think we need to make sure that isn't the case". 

"I did actually ask if that was possible, if we had a male that had been remanded in custody to a male prison, could they go online and actually change their gender and would that create another issue.  And the answer is, people don't know."

She did not know when the bill would return to the House.