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Wednesday, 24 October 2018
Page: 11101


(Question No. 1005)

Ms Butler asked the Attorney-General, in writing, on 14 August 2018:

(1) What measures have been taken since the enactment of marriage equality in December 2017 to ensure government agencies adapt their systems to recognise same sex marriages, and that spouses are not described using heteronormative language.

(2) Will the Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender (2013) be updated to reflect the enactment of marriage equality.

(3) How will he ensure government agencies comply with the Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender.

Mr Porter: The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 (Marriage Amendment Act) made consequential amendments to 20 pieces of Commonwealth legislation to ensure all married couples are treated consistently under Commonwealth law, regardless of their sex or gender. The consequential amendments replaced gendered terms with gender-neutral terms. A definition of spouse was added to the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 to provide that 'a person is the spouse of another person if the person is legally married to the other person.' This definition applies across Commonwealth legislation unless there is a contrary intention for the definition of 'spouse' in that particular legislation.

A small number of additional minor amendments to Commonwealth laws that were not able to be progressed in the Marriage Amendment Act are currently being developed. These amendments would remove gendered terms from Commonwealth legislation where required to ensure equal treatment of all married couples, regardless of their sex or gender.

Schedule 2 of the Marriage Amendment Act, which commences on 9 December 2018, will repeal an exemption in subsection 40(5) of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth). The effect of this repeal is that refusals to make, issue and alter official records of a person's sex on the basis that the person is married, even if the refusal is required to be made under state or territory legislation, will no longer be exempt from the protections against unlawful discrimination in Division 2 of the

Sex Discrimination Act. The former Attorney-General wrote to his state and territory counterparts in December 2017 requesting that they review and amend their state and territory legislation as needed. The majority have now amended their laws to ensure that married people can change the sex on their official records.

Marriage forms were updated on 9 December 2017 to reflect that marriage in Australia is no longer determined by sex or gender. State and territory registries of births, deaths and marriages have also updated their systems accordingly. My Department is currently undertaking a broad review of the marriage forms and will consider whether any further updates to the terminology used are required.

(2) The Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender are consistent with amendments to the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth) and Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth).

(3) All Australian Government departments and agencies are expected to continue to review legislative, regulatory or policy requirements relating to the collection of sex and gender information and amend these as required to ensure compliance with the Guidelines.

My Department commenced an evaluation of the implementation of the Guidelines by Australian Government departments and agencies in March 2017 and is currently considering the range of issues raised during the evaluation and working towards releasing updated Guidelines in late 2018.