Working Group for reducing barriers to changing registered sex

On 1 August 2019 The Minister of Internal Affairs announced the appointment of a Working Group for reducing barriers to changing registered sex (see: Beehive website media release). This Working Group will provide the Minister of Internal Affairs with advice on practical improvements to the current process to change sex information on birth certificates. Further information about the purpose of the Working Group can be found in the Cabinet paper available here: Establishing a Working Group for reducing barriers to changing registered sex (PDF, 679KB) 

The Working Group comprises 7 members, including representatives of the transgender and intersex community as well as medical and legal experts with experience in transgender issues. Kate Scarlet, a lawyer with substantial expertise in the process for changing registered sex, will chair the Working Group. Other members are Jack Byrne, Mani Mitchell, Jeannie Oliphant, Fleur Fitzsimons and Ahi Wi-Hongi. Georgina Beyer has resigned from the Working Group.

Resignation of Working Group member, Georgina Beyer

On 29 October 2019, Georgina Beyer resigned as a member of the Working Group for Reducing Barriers to Changing Registered Sex (the Working Group) for personal reasons. Ms Beyer brought a unique perspective to the Working Group, as the only trans feminine voice, and one of two Māori voices. The Department of Internal Affairs does not propose replacing Ms Beyer on the Working Group at this time. In its final report, the Working Group will take care to be inclusive of trans feminine and Māori perspectives.

Progress on understanding the barriers facing people who apply to update the registered sex on their birth certificates

The Working Group has engaged with a range of experts to take a closer look at the barriers facing people who apply to change the registered sex on their birth certificates. This includes:

  • the Principal Family Court Judge;
  • a Family Court expert from the Ministry of Justice;
  • a Family Court lawyer; and
  • the Registrar-General for Births, Deaths and Marriages,

The Working Group want to understand how medical requirements are being interpreted by the Family Court. They asked DIA to look at published court judgements and information held by the Registrar-General regarding Family Court applications. The process has been undertaken with appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy of people who have made applications to change the sex recorded on their birth certificate.

The Working Group also commissioned DIA’s Service Design team to conduct interviews with members of the transgender community to help improve interactions with government services when changing the sex on birth certificates. The findings from this work will inform the Working Group’s final report. DIA has also inquired about policies across government that affect transgender people and the process of updating identity documents.

The Terms of Reference for the Working Group can be found here:

Proactively Released Briefings relating to the establishment of the Working Group can be found here:

Frequently Asked Questions on the Working Group

What will the Working Group for reducing barriers to changing registered sex be looking at?

When the Minister deferred the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill she announced she would lead work to make practical improvements to the current process. The Working Group is an important part of identifying opportunities for improvement.
In her press release, the Minister identified financial, time, and dignity barriers to people changing the sex on their birth certificate. The Working Group will test mitigation proposals and identify new ways in which the process can be improved. The Working Group is looking for practical improvements within the current system and will be working within the current legislation and will not be considering changes to the law.

Will the Working Group change the process to a self-identification system?

The current process for someone to change sex on their birth certificate requires them to present medical evidence to the Family Court documenting their transition. The court must be satisfied that they have received medical treatment to physically conform with their nominated sex.
Removing the Family Court process, to allow people to change the sex on their birth certificate through self-identification, would require a change in the law. The Working Group is not considering changes to the law.

Is this Working Group going to change the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill?

The Minister has deferred the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill to allow officials to work through the legal issues identified by Crown Law with the self-identification clauses.

The Working Group is separate to the work on the Bill. The Working Group will recommend ways to help people going through the process to change the sex on their birth certificate under the current legislation.

How were Working Group members selected?

The Working Group was established to engage people with lived experience of the current process to change registered sex on a birth certificate. Working Group members are representatives of the transgender and intersex community, and people with professional expertise relevant to the current process.

People with other interests are not represented, as the Working Group is only recommending changes to operational processes under current legislation. Only transgender and intersex people, and related professionals or family members are subject to the current process to change registered sex. If, and when, any changes are proposed to legislation, the wider community will have a chance to comment.

The Minister proposed criteria for the selection of Working Group members to Cabinet. You can read the Cabinet paper here: Establishing a Working Group for reducing barriers to changing registered sex (PDF, 679KB) 

Once criteria had been established, officials at the Department of Internal Affairs worked with the Minister to identify potential Working Group members who would offer a range of perspectives from their own experience of, or work with, the current processes.

Why wasn’t there public consultation about the establishment of the Working Group?

When she deferred the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill, the Minister announced that she would lead work to make practical improvements to the current process. This Working Group is made up of people with lived experience of the way the current law is implemented, or professional expertise working with the transgender community. They will be looking for practical improvements within the current system, not considering changes to the law.

When will the Working Group report back?

The working group will report back to the Minister before the end of the year (2019).

Will there eventually be changes to the legislation itself? If so, when will there be an update on the work officials are doing?

It is too early to say if there will be changes to the legislation. This depends on further work on the legal issues with the self-identification clauses in the deferred Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill, which are still under consideration. An update will be provided when possible.