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Why New Jersey needs a birth certificate bill that works for everyone

January 16, 2018

Dear New Jersey Legislators,

On behalf of Garden State Equality, New Jersey’s largest LGBT advocacy organization; the National Center for Transgender Equality, the nation’s leading social justice advocacy organization for transgender people; and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, the state’s largest defender of individual rights and civil liberties, we write to urge you to support legislation that will allow transgender residents to change the gender marker on their birth certificates to accurately reflect their identities and lived experiences.

Current New Jersey law requires residents to show proof of surgery before they can update the gender marker on their birth certificate. This is outdated, burdensome, and a breach of medical privacy, and makes it impossible for many trans people to access accurate identity documents. For the law to work for all New Jerseyans, we need to do three things –

    • remove the outdated requirement that individuals show proof of surgery before they can update the gender marker on their birth certificate.
    • offer a third gender option, so that residents who do not identify as either male or female are able to access documents that reflect their identities.
    • allow applicants to sign an affidavit affirming their identity, rather than requiring a letter from a therapist or other medical professional.

First, we need to remove the outdated provision that individuals must undergo surgery before they can update the gender marker on their birth certificate. The current provision is more burdensome than regulations at the federal level — there is no such requirement for gender marker changes on passports or with the Social Security Administration. It is also out of step with New Jersey’s own process for changing gender markers on driver’s licenses, and with the requirements of other states with excellent records on LGBT equality.

Second, we need to modernize our law by offering a third gender option for people who identify outside of the binary or for people who want additional privacy around their gender. Like everyone else, people whose gender identity is neither male nor female need access to documentation that matches their presentation and affirms that their experiences and lives are valid and recognized. Based on responses to the 2015 United States Transgender Survey and the advocacy work that we do on behalf of our members, we know there is a significant population of New Jerseyans who identify as non-binary. A bill that includes a third gender option is a bill that works for all New Jerseyans.

Third, we support legislation that requires applicants to sign an affidavit affirming their identity (known as “self-attestation”), in lieu of a letter from a therapist or other medical professional. Requiring letters from medical professionals presents a significant barrier to obtaining accurate identification, particularly for people who may not have insurance or cannot afford medical fees and people who may not have access to supportive providers.  Transitioning is a very individualized process, and individuals themselves know best what gender marker is appropriate and safest for them in interactions where they must show official identification. This change will eliminate barriers to ensure all New Jerseyans have access to accurate identification.

These changes are forward-looking and we’ll be seeing more and more states going in the direction of self-attestation and gender-neutral options over the next few years. With a strong ally in Governor Murphy; the leadership from prime sponsors Joseph Vitale, Loretta Weinberg, Reed Gusciora, Andrew Zwicker, Nicholas Chiaravalloti and Valerie Huttle; and with your support, we can again make New Jersey a leader on LGBT equality.

 

Sincerely,


Christian Fuscarino
Executive Director
Garden State Equality


Amol Sinha
Executive Director
ACLU of New Jersey


Arli Christian
State Policy Counsel
National Center for
Transgender Equality


Aaron Potenza
Director of Programs
Garden State Equality

 

 

References:
The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS) examined the experiences of transgender people in the United States, with 27,715 respondents from all fifty states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and U.S. military bases overseas. It is the largest study of the transgender population ever conducted. More than one-third (35%) of transgender people described themselves as non-binary, meaning they do not identify strictly as male or female.
See: James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality, p. 42. http://www.ustranssurvey.org/reports

California, Washington, Oregon, and the District of Columbia currently allow gender neutral options on identity documents, and others are moving in that direction. For birth certificates specifically, California, Oregon, and Washington offer a gender-neutral option and allow for self-attestation; Nevada also has self-attestation.