High Court Gives Landmark Ruling That In NSW There Is A Third, Non-Specific Gender

The High Court of Australia

The High Court of Australia has ruled that Sydney person Norrie, who was born a man, but underwent gender reassignment surgery, and does not identify as male or female, has the right to have their gender registered as “non-specific”.

In a landmark, unanimous, decision on gender the High Court ruled that the NSW Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages can list a person’s gender as non-specific.

The case ended up in the High Court after four years of legal battles by Scottish-born Norrie, who had gender reassignment surgery in 1989, and applied in 2010 for a name and sex change.

The NSW Registrar issued a Change of Sex certificate and a Change of Name certificate, both of which recorded Norrie’s sex as “not specified”, but later declared the Change of Sex certificate was invalid, and re-issued a Change of Name certificate that recorded Norrie’s sex as “not stated”.

Norrie applied for review in the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal, but it was rejected. The Tribunal’s appeal panel then dismissed a further appeal against that decision before Norrie’s appeal to the Court of Appeal was upheld.

By special leave, the Registrar then appealed against that ruling to the High Court. The issue considered was whether it was within the Registrar’s power to record the sex of a person as “non-specific”.

The High Court decided that the Act recognises that a person may be neither male nor female, and so permits the registration of a person’s sex as “non-specific”.

While the ACT law allows for a third gender option on its registration, the ruling is a first for NSW and will undoubtedly have ramifications for other states.

The High Court ordered that Norrie’s applications be remitted to the Registrar for determination in accordance with its reasons and dismissed the Registrar’s appeal.

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