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Top court in Australia recognizes 'neutral' 3rd gender in landmark case

SYDNEY -- Australia's highest court on Wednesday recognized the existence of a third “non-specific” gender that is neither male nor female, in a landmark ruling campaigners said will help end years of discrimination.

The High Court ruled that not everyone should be forced to identify as a man or woman when dealing with officials, saying some people could legitimately describe themselves as gender neutral.

“The High Court ... recognizes that a person may be neither male nor female, and so permits the registration of a person's sex as 'non-specific,'” it said in a unanimous judgment.

The decision ended a long legal battle by sexual equality campaigner Norrie to overturn a New South Wales state edict that gender is an inherently “binary” concept involving only men or women.

“I'm overjoyed,” the Sydney-based activist said. “It's been a long time from start to end but this has been a great outcome.”

“Maybe people will understand now that there's more options than just the binary. So while an individual might be male or female, not all their friends might be and maybe they might be more accepting of that.”

The 53-year-old, who uses only a single name, was born male and underwent gender reassignment surgery in 1989 to become a woman.

But the surgery failed to resolve the Scottish-born activist's ambiguity about sexual identity, prompting a push for the recognition of a new, non-traditional gender.

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