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First Trans Member of DNC Barbra 'Babs' Siperstein Dies at 76

Barbra 'Babs' Siperstein

Just two days before her passing, the Babs Siperstein Law, allowing trans people to change gender identity without proof of surgery, went into effect in New Jersey.

Just days after a New Jersey law named in her honor that allows transgender people to change the gender on their birth certificates without having to undergo gender-confirmation surgery went into effect, trans activist Barbra "Babs" Siperstein, 76, died Sunday in New Brunswick, N.J. She was surrounded by family, friends, and her partner, Dorothy, according to Insider NJ.

The first openly trans member of the Democratic National Committee, Siperstein was also a superdelegate for Hillary Clinton at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

"In the decade I knew Babs, I was always in awe of her tenacity and strength," Garden State Equality executive director Christian Fuscarino wrote in a statement to The Advocate.

"She was a towering figure in the LGBTQ community who worked tirelessly to advance the rights of transgender people over the last two decades," Fuscarino continued. "She was an architect of our movement, pioneering critical civil rights legislation here in New Jersey and, as the first openly transgender member of the Democratic National Committee, throughout our nation."

"With Babs, we had an LGBTQ icon -- among the likes of Harvey Milk, Sylvia Rivera, and Bayard Rustin -- born and raised right here in the Garden State," Fuscarino said.

An Army veteran, a business owner, and a parent to three kids, Siperstein served as an original board member with Garden State Equality.

Siperstein made history in 2009, when the then-chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Sen. Tim Kaine, appointed her to the executive committee of the DNC where she served until 2017.

"Babs -- like no other -- was instrumental in passing many of the 220 LGBTQ civil rights laws that Garden State Equality has secured in its fifteen-year history, including marriage equality and transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination protections," Fuscarino said. "Since the nascent days of Garden State Equality where she was an original board member, Babs pushed us all to embrace an uncompromising pro-equality campaign that left no member of our community behind."

Signed by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, the Babs Siperstein Law, which allows New Jersey residents to change their gender identity without proof of surgery, went into effect last Friday.

New Jersey senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Cory Booker called Siperstein before her passing, according to Insider NJ.

"Babs is a leader, a trailblazer, and a role model for an entire generation of New Jerseyans. If you don't know her, you probably know someone touched in some way by her tireless activism," Booker said of Siperstein last year. "It's an honor to know her, to work with her, and to call her my friend. Here's to many more years of activism to come and to a legacy that has changed the lives of so many."

The LGBTQ Victory Fund also mourned the loss of Siperstein and lauded her legacy. "For so many in the Democratic Party, Babs was the first openly trans person they ever met and she undoubtably changed the hearts and minds of many party leaders who were not yet committed to trans equality," said a statement released by Victory Fund senior political director Sean Meloy, who served as the DNC's director of LGBTQ engagement. "She was a constant advocate for the entire LGBTQ community and helped make the Democratic Party more accepting not just of trans people, but trans candidates as well. Her presence in the DNC helped prepare the party and pave the way for trailblazing trans Democratic candidates like Danica Roem and Christine Hallquist -- and her impact will be felt for years to come."

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