Neither male nor female: Norrie victory advances sex and gender rights

April 4, 2014
norrie mAy-welby.

An historic High Court case on April 2 granted Norrie, a Redfern resident and activist, non-sex specific status. Norrie had been granted “sex: non-specific” status by the NSW Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages in 2010, but, under the reign of ALP Premier Kristina Keneally, reversed its decision.

It's been a four year long legal and political battle, with two legal challenges by Norrie proving unsuccessful, but a third in May last year proved successful in the NSW Court of Appeal.

The positive High Court decision is recognition by the highest court in the land that ''sex'' is not binary — it is not only ''male'' or ''female'' — and that this should be recognised by the law and in basic legal documents. It has national implications — most states are likely to be bound by the High Court's decision — particularly Victoria and Queensland, who have similar legislation to the NSW Births Deaths and Marriages Act.

Norrie told Green Left Weekly: “The decision is correcting or eliminating ambiguities. It's an outcome that opens up more possibilities for other people instead of thinking there are just two boxes to choose from.”

Norrie, who uses the non-gender specific pronoun "zie", has been fighting for sex and gender rights, but has joined many other battles. Zie is a well-known marriage equality campaigner, and has spoken at many of the equal marriage rallies in Sydney. Zie is also a refugee rights advocate, and campaigner for Aboriginal rights, who stood up against the social cleansing of Aboriginal people from Redfern.

The Socialist Alliance, who were active supporters of Norrie's case, congratulated zie on the win. “Socialist Alliance congratulates norrie mAy-welby on a hard-fought, well-deserved victory in finally obtaining recognition of a third gender in NSW. We commend the decision of the high court of Australia whose ruling now makes Australia the third country in the world to recognise people ‘other than male or female’.

“The Socialist Alliance pledges active solidarity with Norrie and all people whom are incorrectly and simplistically labelled by the state or by society.

“We call upon the courts, the state and federal governments to take this opportunity to speed up the process of recognising the equal rights of all people regardless of sex, gender, sexuality, relationship status.”

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