By Advocate.com Editors
Originally published on Advocate.com February 22 2003 12:00 AM ET
In the first ruling of its kind in Australia, a court on Friday rejected government attempts to annul the three-year marriage of a transsexual and his wife. The couple, identified only as "Kevin and Jennifer J," were beaming as they left Family Court in Sydney. "We're very happy," said Jennifer.
Kevin was born a biological woman; before his 1999 marriage to Jennifer, he had hormone treatments and a sex-change operation. His birth certificate and passport both identify him as a man. In October 1999 the couple successfully applied to Family Court to validate their marriage. However, federal attorney general Daryl Williams challenged that decision on the grounds that Kevin was not a man and therefore his marriage to Jennifer was invalid. Australia does not recognize marriage between two people of the same sex.
The couple's lawyer, Rachel Wallbanks, who is also a transsexual, said the decision is the first of its kind in Australia. "It extends the spirit of Australia to encompass and include people of difference," she said outside the court. A spokeswoman for Williams said the government is considering whether to appeal the decision. "The government believes the case raises serious issues concerning the meaning of marriage under the Marriage Act and, in particular, the role of the parliament in determining the meaning of marriage," the spokeswoman said on customary condition of anonymity.
Conservative prime minister John Howard has said he opposes same-sex marriages but has not publicly commented on weddings involving a transsexual.