Gender change without surgery? NJ could loosen birth-certificate rules
It may soon be easier for New Jersey residents to change the gender listed on their birth certificate — an important issue for a segment of New Jersey's 30,000-plus transgender individuals, and those advocating for them.
Approved by both houses of the state Legislature, and awaiting Gov. Phil Murphy's approval, is a measure that would scrap the current requirement that a person's gender only be amended on their birth certificate with proof of sex reassignment surgery.
Under the measure, making the change would require just a signed form by the person involved, or their guardian.
"People identify as a particular gender, and it doesn't always necessarily have to include any physical change," state Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, a sponsor of the measure, told New Jersey 101.5.
Reassignment surgery may also be nearly impossible for individuals suffering from certain medical issues, or those who don't have the financial means, Vitale added.
"Why should that limit or prohibit someone from expressing who they believe they are?" Vitale asked.
An Assembly amendment approved last Thursday by the full Senate names the law for Babs Siperstein, a prominent New Jersey transgender-rights advocate.
The bill would also give New Jersey the power to amend the birth certificate of a resident who was born in another state that requires a court order.
“New Jersey law needs to recognize current practices for gender transitioning, which include nonsurgical therapies, and must afford transgendered individuals the same broad protection of their rights as all citizens to have official identification that reflects their gender,” Senator Loretta Weinberg said in a news release. “From applying for travel documents or driver’s licenses to school registration, a birth certificate is a necessary document and must be consistent with reality.”
The bill points to research that estimates a total of 30,100 transgender individuals living in New Jersey as of 2016. It's assumed the actual count of individuals seeking a birth certificate amendment without a surgical change will be significantly lower.
Similar legislation had been vetoed by former Gov. Chris Christie. A statement from Gov. Murphy's office said he's "committed to fighting for the equal treatment of all New Jersey's residents, regardless of sex, race, gender identity, or country of origin."
“Governor Murphy has long been supportive of giving LGBTQ New Jerseyans the ability to ensure that their birth and death certificates conform with their gender identity," Murphy's office said. " The administration is closely reviewing the legislation that was recently passed to advance this goal.”
Like New Jersey, most states require that a medical or court professional sign off on a gender change. Washington recently joined a handful of western states allowing more than two genders — the third being 'X' — on their birth certificates.