Oregon Eases Birth Certificate Changes for Trans People

Kate Brown
Oregon Governor Kate Brown

Oregon’s Kate Brown, the nation’s first and only out bisexual governor, is helping to keep the state in the forefront of LGBT progress, today signing a law making it easier for transgender Oregonians to revise the name and gender on their birth certificates.

Under the new law, House Bill 2673A, trans people with Oregon birth certificates will be able to make the changes simply by filling out a form rather than posting a public notice in a county clerk’s office and going to court, making the process easier and more private while greatly reducing the cost, Reuters reports. Oregon is only the second state to put such a procedure in place; California was the first, in 2014. Oregon’s law will go into effect January 1.

“Many transgender Oregonians fear being publicly outed by having sensitive medical and personal information disclosed through the current court process,” said Nancy Haque, co-executive director of LGBT group Basic Rights Oregon, in a press release. “They have to post their name change on a public bulletin board and sometimes answer personal medical questions in open court. This is a real barrier.”

Having a revised birth certificate will then ease the process of changing names on driver’s licenses, insurance cards, and other documents. “Transgender Oregonians consistently report harassment, discrimination, and even violence when they have IDs that don’t match their gender presentation,” said Amy Herzfeld-Copple, Basic Rights Oregon’s other co-executive director, in the same release.

Nora Broker, one of several people who offered testimony in favor of HB 2673A. “I grew up in Corvallis, a pretty small town, and trans people in small communities face extra challenges,” she said in the press release. “We may know that we’re different, but may have no one in our daily lives who provides an example that makes sense. Further, in a small community, everyone is under close scrutiny — your life is inherently public, because everyone is so aware of one another. This makes it all the more terrifying to face posting a name and gender change publicly, or to face a hearing in open court. Folks in small communities like my hometown have a particularly compelling need for a more private pathway.”

The new law will also lower the cost of the process significantly. It will “entail an administrative cost expected to run just $65, compared to the hundreds of dollars typically incurred to complete required paperwork, plus thousands more that an applicant often faced to hire a lawyer,” Reuters reports. Because of various barriers, only 10 percent of transgender Americans have identification matching their gender identity, according to a 2015 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Oregon is one of the most progressive states in the nation for LGBT people, with a law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, a ban on the use of conversion therapy on minors, and administrative policies adopted by various state departments to prevent anti-trans discrimination in health care, insurance, and education. However, HB 2673A is the first stand-alone piece of trans-supportive legislation passed by lawmakers and signed by the governor.

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