By Parker Marie Molloy
Originally published on Advocate.com February 10 2014 9:58 AM ET
Last month, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have relaxed rules regarding the amount of documentation needed to change one's gender marker on a birth certificate. On January 30, state senators Joseph F. Vitale, a democrat, and Diane B. Allen, a republican, introduced a new bill that is virtually identical to the one Gov. Christie vetoed. As with the earlier version, this bill is aimed at making it easier for transgender individuals to align their identification documents with their identity.
New Jersey state law currently requires an individual to undergo some form of sexual reassignment surgery in order to update the gender marker on their birth certificate. Many insurance companies refuse to cover such surgeries, leaving the individual to pay often prohbitive costs out of pocke, as such procedures often cost tens of thousands of dollars. Many of these procedures are risk-laden, invasive procedures, leading many trans individuals opt against having them, and instead rely solely on other forms of medical intervention to aid in their transition, such as hormone replacement therapy.
The bill would amend the state code, making a simple, yet important change.
Current state law declares that "The State registrar shall issue the amended certificate of birth upon receipt of... a medical certificate form completed by the person's licensed physician which indicates the sex of the person has been changed by medical procedure."
If this bill is passed into law, the statuatory language would be amended to read, "The State registrar shall issue the amended certificate of birth upon receipt of... a form provided by the State registrar and completed by the person's licensed health care provider which indicates that the person has undergone clinically appropriate treatment for the purpose of gender transition, based on contemporary standards, or that the person has an intersex condition."[Emphasis added.]
In vetoing the previous bill, Gov. Christie cited concerns that it "may result in significant legal uncertainties and create opportunities for fraud, deception, and abuse." Chistie vetoed the bill, even though he acknowledged the need for individuals to have consistent identification documents, writing, "A birth certificate is a prerequisite to obtaining other critical identification documents that factor into decisions concerning employment, financial services, education, and travel."
The final sentence of the bill's text contains a truth many trans individuals know well: "The purpose of the bill is to acknowledge that individuals do not necessarily undergo sex reassignment surgery when changing sex, and to revise the process for obtaining an amended certificate of birth due to a change in sex to reflect current practices."
The bipartisan bill has been assigned to the Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, though no hearing date or vote has yet been scheduled.