Cases about equality before the law (3)

Campbell v Australia (HRC, 2017)

Remedy's assessment: Unremedied

Dr Campbell and her partner of 10 years, Ms A, had a daughter together and are both recognised as the child’s legal parents. Without access to marriage equality in Australia, the couple travelled to Canada to marry. They separated and Campbell assumed sole care of their daughter. They obtained a formal separation and division of property, but no formal proceedings concerning the custody and care of their daughter. Ms A stopped contributing to their mortgage and to child support.

Australia forbids child marriage, polygamous marriage and same-sex marriage, although these kinds of marriages are lawful in certain other countries. Australian law provides divorce proceedings for the former two types of marriage, but forbids same-sex couples who have married abroad from obtaining a divorce in Australia. Campbell alleged that this distinction constitutes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, with difficulties and harms arising both from discrimination and denial of divorce.

The Committee found Australia in breach of article 26 of the ICCPR (equality before the law).

Read more on Campbell v Australia.

G v Australia (HRC, 2017)

Remedy's assessment: Unremedied

Ms G is a transgender woman. She changed her name on her birth certificate and had her driver’s license, Medicare card and credit cards reissued in her new name and successfully applied for a passport in her new name and gender. She married a woman, and subsequently underwent gender affirmation surgery.

Because Australia does not permit same-sex marriage, it will not change the gender on the birth certificate of someone who is married. The same restriction does not apply to other identity documents, such as passports.

Ms G’s birth certificate states that she was born male, but presents and identifies female. It thereby reveals private information about the fact that she is transgender and is a violation of her right to privacy (art 17).

Requiring Ms G to divorce in order to obtain a birth certificate that correctly identifies her gender is arbitrary interference with her right to family (art 17).

Further, “by denying transgender persons who are married a birth certificate that correctly identifies their sex, in contrast to unmarried transgender and non-transgender persons, the government is failing to afford the author and similarly situated individuals equal protection under the law”. The HRC found Ms G experienced discrimination on the basis of her marital status and her transgender identity (art 26).

Australia must make “full reparation” to Ms G, including providing her with a birth certificate consistent with her sex. Australia must also prevent similar violations in the future by revising its legislation to comply with the Covenant.

Read more on G v Australia.

Lockrey v Australia (CRPD, 2016)

Remedy's assessment: Unremedied

Mr Lockrey is Deaf and requires real-time steno-captioning in order to communicate. He was summoned to serve as a juror, but when he informed authorities he would need steno-captioning in order to serve as a juror, the NSW Sheriff refused, claiming that to have a captioner in the jury room would breach the confidentiality of jury deliberations.

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities found that Australia had discriminated against Mr Lockrey by failing to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate him, noting that a captioner could take an oath of confidentiality in order to be present in the jury room. The Committee further found violations concerning Mr Lockrey’s right to accessibility, to express himself ‘in official interactions’ and to equal access to justice.

Read more on Lockrey v Australia.