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New Jersey takes one step forward on marriage equality, one step back on trans rights

Transgender Rights

We don’t have the chance to cover transgender issues as much as we’d like to here at EqualityOnTrial–there’s so much marriage equality news that there aren’t enough posts in the day!–but there was an important and disappointing development out of New Jersey this week that we think it’s important to mention.  This Monday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill that had passed the state legislature which would have allowed transgender individuals to change the gender on their birth certificates without undergoing gender reassignment surgery. reports:

Christie said changing a birth certificate would create opportunities for “fraud, deception and abuse, and should therefore be closely scrutinized and sparingly approved.”

The matter is not dead, said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), one of the bill’s sponsors.

“Gov. Christie’s veto suggests that with safeguards he would have signed this legislation,” Huttle said. “I plan to work with my colleagues and the Governor’s office to get this legislation done during the next session.”

Since 1984, state law has required the Department of Health to issue new birth certificates to people who have undergone sex change surgery. But not every transgender person goes that route, with some choosing hormone therapy instead.

The bill, (A4097) would have applied to people who have undergone “clinically appropriate treatment for the purpose of gender transition, based on contemporary medical standards, or that the person has an intersex condition,” according to the legislation.

In a veto message released after the Christie’s move, the governor said that the bill lacked “appropriate safeguards” and needed “further consideration”:

A birth certificate is an important legal document. In many instances, the production of a birth certificate is a prerequisite to obtaining other critical identification documents that factor into decisions concerning employment, financial services, education, and travel. Birth certificates are often required to complete myriad security-related tasks. Accordingly, proposed measures that revise the standards for the issuance of amended birth certificates may result in significant legal uncertainties and create opportunities for fraud, deception, and abuse, and should therefore be closely scrutinized and sparingly approved.

Unlike many other states, New Jersey already has an administrative process in place to streamline applications to amend birth certificates for gender purposes without court order. Under the proposal before me, however, the sponsors seek to alter the amended birth certificate application process without maintaining appropriate safeguards. Consequently, further consideration is necessary to determine whether to make such significant changes to State law concerning the issuance of vital records.

“This was a simple bureaucratic change, which would have offered tremendous support to the transgender community, and have zero effect on anyone else,” Troy Stevenson, executive director of Garden State Equality, said in a release.  The New Jersey legislature could vote to override Christie’s veto, but until then, transgender individuals in the state will have to undergo surgery to have their gender recognized according to their wishes.

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  • 1. JoJo  |  January 17, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    He will probably be in prison soon and I hope his replacement is more GLBT friendly ….

  • 2. Dr. Z  |  January 17, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    Christie is an effing bully.

  • 3. Michelle Evans  |  January 18, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Thank you EOT for posting this article. It is good to see such an important trans issue also getting some air time here.

  • 4. Michelle Evans  |  January 18, 2014 at 11:26 am

    And as for Christie's comments about this creating a way to perpetrate "fraud, deception, and abuse" all this does is show how ignorant he is about what it means to be transgender. To get the new certificate under the new law requires certification from a doctor, so that means that he thinks there are doctors versed in trans care who would also be willing accomplices to perpetrating this fraud!

    He also neglects the simple fact that there are no cases which show that any trans person has ever done such a thing in order to defraud anyone. It's sort of like the idea that the bigots have that the only reason a trans person wants to change gender is because they are perverts who want to use the women's room as a voyeur. Again, not one case has ever supported such a view. And as a trans woman myself I can state firmly that the only reason I go to the women's room is because, like every other woman, I need to go to the bathroom. But people like Christie can't seem to understand that simple biological fact and have other things on his sick little mind.

  • 5. bayareajohn  |  January 18, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    The common response to this is that they aren't actually worried about authentic trans persons abusing the use of public bathrooms, but instead are worried that straight people will fraudulently obtain or fake the trans status (or simply take advantage of the doubt) to gain access to the opposite sex facilities… ostensibly to to harm or for sexual gratification. They point out that no one will be at the bathroom door challenging for a certificate, so it's open season.

    Not that this fear makes much sense in reality, either. I don't recall hearing about a rapist in drag, ever… and GOOGLE fails to find even a single story, real or mythic.

  • 6. Michelle Evans  |  January 18, 2014 at 11:39 pm

    You are right about this fear that some people have that somehow people will use this to fake their way into a situation to, as Christie said, to deceive people. And as you say, there is not one documented case of this ever happening. The idea that anyone would go through the trouble and expense of changing their birth certificate in order to deceive someone is ludicrous.

    No one in their right mind would claim to be transgender if they are not actually trans. speaking as a trans person, it is a dangerous world out there. Someone attempting to defraud someone or some agency can find much better ways of doing so than identifying as trans. All that does is make them stand out in a crowd, which is the last thing a deceiver would ever want.

    If Christie would b e willing to get educated on the subject, maybe he would feel different, but like most people he would never do such a thing as he prefers to hold onto his fear.

  • 7. Dr. Z  |  January 19, 2014 at 3:35 am

    After the disclosures of the past few weeks, I wonder how much Christie's veto was meant to punish LGBT voters for backing Bouno. That would certainly be consistent with his pettiness displayed on other issues.

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    Well, he knows which side of his bread is buttered. (Add your own segue to that if you like) 😀

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