Sunday 21 December 2014

Sydney resident given non-specific gender status in unanimous Australian High Court verdict

Kashmira Gander

Published 02/04/2014 | 18:27

Photo: PA
Photo: PA

Australia’s High Court has granted a non-specific gender status to Sydney resident Norrie, in a battle that has been ongoing since 2010.

The court was asked to consider whether “non-specific” can be included as a third gender category under Australia's Registry's Act.

The judgment handed down in Norrie's favour was unanimous.

52-year-old Norrie was born a male, but asked to be recognised as a non-specific gender in 2010 following gender-reassignment surgery in 1989.

The Scottish-born Australian was given gender neutral status in 2010, but after the New South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages revoked its decision months later, Norrie took the cause to the court of appeal in 2012.

Norrie’s legal team argued that forcing Norrie to identify as either male or female when Norrie identified with neither specification would maintain a fiction, the Guardian reported.

Despite Wednesday’s ruling, the court repeatedly referred to Norrie as “she” and “her” in its judgment, noting that Norrie's legal representatives used the terms in submissions.

“Maybe people will now understand there are more options than the binary, and even if a person is specifically male or female, their friends might not be, and hopefully people might be a little bit more accepting of that,” Norrie said of the decision at a news conference.

“It’s important for people to have equal rights in society. Why should people be left out because they’re seen as not male or female? They should be recognised wherever they are and allowed to participate in society at an equal level.”

"[Upon hearing the verdict] I jumped up and down a lot. I was getting ready for my shower and I saw it come up and I said, 'hooray'. I squealed," Norrie added.

Scott McDonald, the lawyer who represented Norrie, said the ruling sent a message that the High Court does not believe gender is limited to male and female.

He described the case outcome as a "persuasive authority" for other jurisdictions and Australian states.

Lawyers for the Registry argued confusion would occur from the acceptance of more than two gender categories, and that the purpose of a reassignment procedure was to assist a person to be considered a member of the opposite sex, an argument the High Court rejected.

Additional reporting by Reuters

Independent News Service

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