A new bill, put forward by the Labor and Green opposition in Tasmania, could make it against the law for people to refuse to name others by their preferred pronoun.
The proposed laws would also allow parents in Tasmania to decide on whether their child’s gender is recorded on their birth certificate, as well as enable people aged 16 or older to legally change their gender.
Passed in Tasmania’s lower house last month, the bill must now pass the state’s 15-member upper house – nine of whom are independents – to become law.
Speaking to The Australian, Dr. Greg Walsh from the University of Notre Dame Australia named the reforms largely “admirable”, but slammed the part of the bill that dictated how people use pronouns.
Claiming it was “completely unacceptable”, he said: “The Tasmanian parliament’s proposed changes to its anti-discrimination legislation could make it illegal for a person to not accept a transgender person’s gender identity.
“Although it is admirable that parliamentarians want to ensure those who are transgender are respected, the attempt to use state power to force individuals to use language that contradicts their deeply held beliefs is completely unacceptable.”
He was joined by Conservative activist group Advance Australia which reportedly asked: “What’s next?”
Describing the proposed changes as a “slippery slope” and “compelled speech”, the organisation’s national director, Gerard Benedet, told The Australian: “If a trans person said to me, ‘I would prefer it if you called me or address me by X’, out of respect, you would do it. But the government has no place telling you that you must say that.”
The changes were passed last month in a tense vote that saw Tasmania’s Liberal Speaker Sue Hickey vote against her party with Labor and the Greens to make the casting vote.
Liberal Attorney-General Elise Archer has also spoken out on how she believes the changes are deeply flawed. Speaking in a statement last month, she claimed: “This amended bill contains legally untested, unconsulted and highly problematic changes that we could not support.”
However, others have celebrated the proposed changes, with transgender and gender-diverse rights group, Transforming Tasmania, commending the proposal.
In addition, many members of the Labor and the Greens have praised the new bills, with State Greens leader Cassy O’Connor telling parliament: “These changes will make people, who we should all care about, feel happier, safer and more included.”
On the other hand, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has criticised the debate over the removal of gender markers from passports and birth certificates in the past.
He wrote on Twitter: “A Liberal national government will never remove gender from birth certificates, licenses and passports – who are Labor kidding? Get real… This is the problem with Labor, obsessed with nonsense like removing gender from birth certificates rather than lower electricity prices, reducing tax for hard-working families and small businesses.”