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Gender Identity: Rainbow Wellington's submission

Mon 14 Jul 2014 In: Our Communities View at NDHA

Since submissions won't be heard on the bid to have gender identity included specifically in the Human Rights Act, we're sharing them here. SUBMISSION ON STATUTES AMENDMENT BILL (NO.4), SUPPLEMENTARY ORDER PAPER NO.432 1. This is the submission of Rainbow Wellington on the Statutes Amendment Bill (No.4), with special reference to SOP 432, amending the Human Rights Act 1993, Section 21 (1) (a). Rainbow Wellington is a group representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) citizens which, among other concerns, pursues matters regarding the human and civil rights of its members and others affected. We have around one hundred members and a mailing list of seven hundred or so others. Although we are regionally based we generally pursue matters of national significance. Over the past few years we have taken up issues relating to discrimination in insurance, blood donation, censorship on the grounds of sexual orientation, and discrimination in the workplace, among others. We submitted to this Committee in 2012 in favour of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill. 3. Rainbow Wellington has lobbied for the full implementation of the recommendations of the Human Rights Commission report To be who I am, since its publication in 2007. We have taken particular interest in those reforms requiring amendments to primary legislation. The amendment here proposed to section 21 (1) (a) of the Human Rights Act 1993 is one of the most notable pieces of legislation recommended for such amendment. The HRC report recommended: “Reduce discrimination and marginalisation experienced by trans* people by ... clarifying, for the avoidance of doubt, that protection from sex discrimination in the Human Rights Act 1993 includes protection from discrimination on the grounds of gender identity.” (To be who I am, sectn 9.50, p.100). 4. This recommendation was specifically worded in this way because in 2006 an opinion had been received from the Solicitor-General that “sex” in this context did in fact include gender identity. Since then Governments of both hue have accepted this opinion and made it part of Government policy, as was made clear by the Minister of Justice in the Government report to the recent UN Universal Periodic Review on New Zealand, as quoted in the explanatory note of this SOP. 5. This amendment therefore is, or at least should be, a purely technical and non-controversial amendment, clarifying the Government’s and Parliament’s view of the meaning of this section in so far as it affects transgender people. However, because this is a legal opinion which would need clarifying by the Courts in the context of individual cases, it is important that the intention of Parliament be made crystal clear. Otherwise it is still the case that examples of discrimination against trans* people could occur, and the legal situation be in some doubt. To pursue test cases to gain judicial corroboration of the Solicitor-General’s 2006 opinion would impose an unfair financial burden on individual members of the trans* community. 6. This is particularly the case because, as the HRC report itself states, ignorance of and prejudice against trans* people is widespread. As an organisation whose membership mostly consists of lesbians and gay men, we recognise this ignorance and prejudice as similar to that which our own communities had to face a number of years ago. It is therefore inevitable that opposition to this SOP will be expressed by those who wish to continue to discriminate. Indeed there are still some who refuse to recognise the very existence of trans* people, but insist that biological gender at birth is the only true gender identity. Members of the Committee may recall that during the “Enough is enough” rally against the Civil Union Bill, led by the Destiny Church, then-MP Georgina Beyer was referred to as “George” by supporters of that rally when she appeared to speak to them. 7. The HRC report included one section on Intersex people, pointing out that many of the acts of discrimination directed towards trans* people affect them as well. Indeed, many intersex people have suffered considerably at the hands of binary gender theories; infants are still operated on when they cannot themselves consent. Not even the most transphobic of opponents of this amendment would surely claim that intersex people do not exist or chose their own situation? Yet there is no doubt but that they will also benefit from the passing of this amendment. 8. We leave it our friends in the trans* and intersex communities to supply more details to the committee of the discriminatory acts that they face in their daily lives. We, as lesbians and gay men can only begin to imagine this, and can therefore only support them with this submission. We strongly urge the Committee to recommend to the House that SOP 432 be passed as part of the Statutes Amendment Bill (No.4). Tony Reed Secretary For and behalf of Rainbow Wellington Rainbow Wellington - 14th July 2014    

Credit: Rainbow Wellington

First published: Monday, 14th July 2014 - 8:40am

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