N.J. renews push for dismissal of trans birth-certificate case

N.J. renews push for dismissal of trans birth-certificate case

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New Jersey officials last week continued to urge the dismissal of a federal lawsuit seeking to allow trans people born in New Jersey to change the gender on their birth certificate without undergoing surgery.

“Jane Doe” has gender dysphoria and seeks to change the gender designation on her birth certificate without undergoing surgery. New Jersey currently requires proof of gender-confirmation surgery prior to issuing to a trans person a revised birth certificate with a different gender.

Doe’s lawsuit, filed in November, remains pending before U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas E. Arpert, based in Camden.

In a March 13 brief, attorneys for New Jersey officials emphasize that Doe already has an accurate birth certificate.

“[Doe] never demonstrates how a birth record that lists her physical anatomy as that of a male can possibly be ‘inaccurate’ when she actually has, and was born with, the anatomy of a male,” the attorneys wrote, adding that none of Doe’s civil rights is being violated by New Jersey officials.

“[B]irth certificates are only proof of an individual’s physical features, initially ascertained at birth,” they wrote. “That birth certificates are used for identification purposes is thus immaterial to [Doe’s] claim that she is being denied access to an ‘accurate’ birth certificate. The court should reject [Doe’s] attempt to manufacture a factual dispute.”

Additionally, the attorneys claim that gender identity can’t be ascertained at birth. Thus, a birth certificate by its nature cannot document a person’s gender identity.

According to New Jersey officials, granting Doe’s request would open the door to fraud and identity theft.

“If an individual could obtain a birth certificate with different physical identifying information upon demand and without proof, as [Doe] seeks to do here, the state would be forced to create multiple, conflicting versions of otherwise genuine birth certificates for one individual. These different versions could then be used by that individual, or sold to imposters, to establish fraudulent identities.”

The defendants are state registrar Vincent T. Arrisi and state health commissioner Cathleen D. Bennett, along with the agencies they head: the New Jersey Office of Vital Statistics and the New Jersey Department of Health, respectively.

Doe’s suit notes several states, including Pennsylvania, New York, California, Iowa, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, permit gender changes to birth certificates without gender-confirmation surgery. Also, New Jersey doesn’t require gender-confirmation surgery to change a gender marker on a driver’s license.

Julie Chovanes, an attorney for Doe, is optimistic that the case will move forward.

“Essentially, the state defendants denigrate trans people by saying we can’t be trusted, and that we’re different than everyone else,” Chovanes told PGN. “Trans people shouldn’t lose rights by being trans. If America is about anything, she’s about the right of each of us to define ourselves, to be ourselves — with the full protection of the law and in full recognition of our human dignity. We feel confident the court will recognize those basic, immutable values.”

Paul Loriquet, a spokesperson for the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation.

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