February 24th 2018

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Weatherill demand places Murray-Darling in jeopardy

EDITORIAL China completes island building in South China Sea

CANBERRA OBSERVED Greens: wouldn't know a cowardly act if they did one

REDEFINITION OF MARRIAGE Government forms say it is fluid gender marriage

FREEDOM AND LAW Gender and anti-discrimination: wedges between you and freedom

HISTORY A look back at B.A. Santamaria gives us a forward impulse

GENDER POLITICS Transgenderism: A state-sponsored religion

LAW AND SOCIETY Protecting freedom of religion in Australia

HISTORY Hungary, 62 years on from the anti-Soviet uprising

MUSIC Reel to real: Johann Johannsson, RIP

CINEMA Sweet Country: Sour taste of bush justice


BOOK REVIEW Lessons from the UK front of the GFC

BOOK REVIEW The dragon has woken and rumbled

BOOK REVIEW Recovery manual for morals and culture


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Government forms say it is fluid gender marriage

by Patrick J. Byrne

News Weekly, February 24, 2018

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Attorney-General’s Department have made it clear that changing the Marriage Act to allow “two people” to marry delivered gender-fluid marriage, not just same-sex marriage.

Immediately after the survey result was announced last November, Mr Turnbull made it clear that the marriage amendment bill meant that “two people will be able to get married, regardless of their gender, … it is basically between two persons regardless of their gender.”[1]

After the Marriage Act was amended on December 9, the Federal Attorney-General’s Department issued a new Marriage Celebrants Programme.[2] It says that, under the new definition of marriage, “[t]he right to marry under Australian law will no longer be determined by sex or gender”.

It explains two major changes on a couple’s Notice of Intended Marriage.

From page three of the Notice of Intended Marriage.

First, there are “three options for a party’s description: ‘groom’, ‘bride’ and ‘partner’. It is up to each party which descriptor they prefer. The descriptor ‘groom’ can be used by a male party, and ‘bride’ can be used by a female party, regardless of the sex or gender of the other party to the proposed marriage. The descriptor ‘partner’ can be used by a male, female, intersex, non-binary gender or transgender party.”

This allows for a person born male to identify as a woman and be married as a “bride” or as a “partner.” It allows for a person born female to identify as a man and be married as “groom” or as a “partner”.

Second, the Marriage Celebrant’s Programme says that the marriage applicants can record their sex or gender. They have three options: “‘Male’, ‘Female’ and ‘X’ (any person who does not exclusively identify as either male or female, such as a person who is intersex, indeterminate or unspecified).”

It says that evidence of a person’s sex or gender can be found on “an original or amended state or territory birth certificate, a valid Australian government passport or a statement from a registered medical practitioner or registered psychologist”.

What do these new sex/gender categories mean?

The Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender[3] say that “Indeterminate” refers to “someone whose biological sex cannot be unambiguously determined or someone who identifies as neither male nor female. Many terms are used to recognise people who do not fall within the traditional binary notions of sex and gender (male and female), including non-binary, gender diverse, gender queer, pan-gendered, androgynous and inter-gender.”[4] It can also refer to a person being at some point on spectrum of 100 per cent male to 100 per cent female.

“Unspecified” is not defined in the guidelines, but appears to apply “in circumstances where a person is in the process of changing their identity from one sex and gender to another (’transitioning’) or does not identify as having a sex.”[5]

“Intersex” refers to people with a disorder of sexual development.

So, what do “Male” and “Female” mean on the Notice of Intended Marriage? Do they mean a person’s sex fixed at birth? Or, is it that, as a person can “choose” their sex/gender, Male/Female are just two fluid options to choose from? After all, a person only requires “a statement from a registered medical practitioner or a registered psychologist which specifies their gender”[6] to identify as something other than their birth sex.

Arguably, Male/Female on the Notice of Intended Marriage are no longer fixed, immutable terms referring to a person’s biological sex as recorded at birth, but are fluid terms that allow a person to change to another sex or gender. In which case, Male means cismale and Female means cisfemale, where “cis” means, “to align with”.

Australians may have voted to accept same-sex marriage, but the Parliament has delivered something much wider – fluid gender marriage.

Patrick J. Byrne is national president of the National Civic Council.



[1] Neil Mitchell interview with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on 3AW radio, “Mornings with Neil Mitchell”, November 17, 2017.

[2] Marriage Celebrants Programme, Federal Attorney General’s Department, December 2017.

[3] Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender (July 2013, Updated November 2015), Federal Attorney General’s Department, p5.

[4] Ibid., Key Terms, p9.

[5] Beyond the Binary:Legal Recognition of Sex and Gender Diversity in the ACT, The ACT Law Reform Advisory Council (LRAC), December 21, 2012, pp36,38, cited in Theodore Bennett, "No Man’s Land: non-binary sex identification in Australian Law and Policy", UNSW Law Journal Volume 37(3), 2014, p861.

[6] Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender, Op. cit., p5.

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