November 2, 2018 / 2:35 PM / 12 days ago

LGBT+ Australians 'vilified' as PM rules out gender-neutral passports: campaigners

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Transgender and intersex people in Australia are being increasingly vilified by the government, LGBT+ campaigners said on Friday, after the prime minister called gender-neutral passports “nonsense” and ruled out their introduction.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison criticized a draft proposal by the opposition Labor Party to debate the removal of gender markers from passports and birth certificates this week.

“A Liberal national government will never remove gender from birth certificates, licenses and passports – who are Labor kidding? Get real,” Morrison wrote on Twitter this week.

“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,” he added.

Campaigners condemned Morrison’s remarks as an “outdated” and “totally inappropriate” attack against the LGBT+ community.

“Yet again, we see a destructive statement from someone in a position of prominence and influence,” Sally Goldner, a spokeswoman for Transgender Victoria, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“To attempt to link the words transgender and nonsense is vilification and totally inappropriate,” said Goldner.

Ross Murray, a spokesman for LGBT+ charity GLAAD, said transgender and non-binary people, who do not identify as either male or female, had “come under vicious attack” since same-sex marriage became legal last year.

“This community is not nonsense, but real, everyday Australians who deserve to be treated with respect,” Murray said.

Since he emerged the surprise winner of a leadership contest in August, Morrison has come under fire for his comments about LGBT+ people.

In September, the prime minister drew widespread criticism after commenting on social media that schools do not need “gender whisperers” in response to a report that teachers are being trained to identify transgender children.

The Labor proposal called for a review of documentation requirements to give transgender and intersex people options that match their sex characteristics or gender identities.

Campaigners say strict male and female categories are a form of discrimination against transgender, intersex and non-binary people that labels them against their will.

Several Australian states, including New South Wales and Queensland, have allowed gender-neutral driver licenses since 2013.

Gender-neutral passports have not been introduced in any Australian states, but Tasmania is set to debate a proposal to remove gender markers from birth certificates this month.

Australia has offered a third gender option of X on birth certificates and passports since 2013. Germany, New Zealand, Canada and India also allow this option.

Reporting by Isabelle Gerretsen @izzygerretsen; Editing by Astrid Zweynert. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit news.trust.org

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