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Human Rights (Gender Identity) Amendment Bill

23 August 2004, New Zealand Parliament, volume 633, pp.4794-4795

Please always refer back to the Hansard original.

GEORGINA BEYER (Labour): In October 2004 the Human Rights (Gender Identity) Amendment Bill, was introduced to the House—a member’s bill in my name. I can inform the House that as of this morning I discharged that bill and have withdrawn it. I have done so, being very confident in the progress made towards addressing the issues that that bill raised and brought forward for consideration. They were to include gender identity within our human rights legislation, to put beyond doubt that there were no grounds for discrimination, and, indeed, to prohibit discrimination against those with issues around gender identity. That group would have included transsexuals, transvestites, cross-dressers, intersex people, and any others who felt they had a gender identity issue. I am pleased to report that upon his own initiative on behalf of the Government, the Attorney-General, the Hon Dr Michael Cullen, with support from the Prime Minister, sought a clarification from the Solicitor-General. He has today provided me with a Crown Law opinion that concludes that the current New Zealand Human Rights Act, and particularly section 21 of that Act, would be inclusive of people who may have issues around gender identity, particularly the specific groups I mentioned before. They would be protected under the proviso that there cannot be discrimination on the grounds of sex or sexual orientation. This clarity will put to rest that issue for some, including the decision makers in our courts, etc. who may—and we have not had case law to date on this in New Zealand—have to consider a matter around gender identity. This opinion would give an indication and a direction on which they may base a judgment. Discrimination still exists for transsexuals and other such people with gender identity issues in New Zealand. That was the purpose of having clarity brought about by the introduction of my bill. For example, those issues exist within housing and employment situations, and I can certainly attest, as a member of Parliament, to having received delegations of people who have pointed out that young children who are transsexuals have encountered an awful lot of problems within their schools and within their communities, because of the way they have chosen to live their lives. That is discrimination, and it is intolerable in this day and age. I am glad this clarity has been brought to the attention of Parliament and of those in New Zealand who are interested in the subject matter. This effort has not been without work from numerous people, particularly organisations outside of Parliament. I can think of an organisation called Agender that deserves some credit, and of other transgender organisations that have watched keenly the progress of the bill for clarity around the situation. I would like particularly to thank Michael Wilson, who assisted in drafting the original bill. I would also like to thank colleagues within the Labour caucus and many other members in the House who, in the last Parliament and in this current Parliament, expressed some support for the intention of my bill. But there was not enough support within the last Parliament or this Parliament for me to feel confident that the bill would have succeeded had it gone to a first reading; indeed, I think quite the contrary would have occurred. I guess quite venal debate might have occurred, like that after the prostitution reform and civil union legislation was passed. The debates that interested this House and the nation at that time brought up some rather distasteful references to things we had long left in the past. I just add also that internationally—I have just returned from a conference in Montreal, and the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner pointed out in her keynote address to that high-level conference that gender identity is a vexed issue that still needs to be addressed by many jurisdictions around the world—those matters are being addressed by other jurisdictions. It is pleasing to find, within our own human rights legislation, that this Crown Law opinion will, I hope, put beyond doubt any question in respect of the matter of gender identity protection for the transgender community, and specifically transsexuals, transvestites, cross-dressers, and the intersex people. The whole transgender community can feel that clarity has now been gained, and that there is something that they can rest on as far as protection is concerned. I seek the leave of the House to table, for members’ information, a Crown Law opinion dated 2 August from the Solicitor-General, which concludes that transgender people are protected under the existing human rights legislation of New Zealand. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.