Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill this week that would have eased the process by which transgender individuals can change the gender markers on their birth certificates.
The proposed legislation, which both chambers of the New Jersey legislature passed last year, would have allowed the state to issue amended birth certificates for individuals who have undergone clinical treatments for a gender transition, including such methods as hormone therapy. Current law requires gender-reassignment surgery for certificates to be changed.
In his veto memo, Christie said the bill could provide an opportunity for individuals to commit fraud. He contended that “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, the sponsors seek to alter the amended birth-certificate application process without maintaining appropriate safeguards.”
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle and openly gay Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, both Democrats, were prime sponsors of the bill, and Sens. Joseph F. Vitale and Loretta Weinberg, also Democrats, spearheaded it in that chamber.
Huttle has said backers will reintroduce the measure in the next session.
Lambda Legal Transgender Rights project director Dru Levasseur said there is no reason to require transgender or intersex individuals to undergo often-expensive procedures in order to change their sex on documents.
“New Jersey’s onerous surgery requirement is out of step with contemporary standards for transgender health care and imposes a hurdle that many cannot and should not have to meet simply to have identity documents that reflect who they are,” Levasseur said.
Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin reiterated that message and said Christie “is letting down transgender New Jerseyans and showing that their well-being is of no concern to him.”
Griffin urged the legislature to again pursue the measure and “shine a spotlight on how harmful this veto is to the citizens of [Christie’s] state.”
For Philadelphia transgender activist Jordan Gwendolyn Davis, the bill would have helped her continue her own transition.
Davis, who was born in Ocean County, N.J., changed her name in 2011 and, in the process, learned she could not change the gender on her New Jersey birth certificate unless she underwent surgery.
Davis had conversations with New Jersey legislators and board members of Garden State Equality in 2012 to press for such legislation.
“The issue of being able to change your birth certificate is important because it is the source of all other forms of identification — from driver’s licenses to passports — and it creates a situation where you have to ‘override’ the gender marker on your birth certificate with a doctor’s note when applying for other documentation,” she said. “Also, one is bound by the vital-statistics laws of where they are born, so no matter where I, or any other New Jersey native moves, New Jersey’s law will apply to me.”
In light of Christie’s veto, Davis said bipartisan leadership could help the measure come to fruition.
“I feel that we need to get bipartisan support for this bill and have Republicans prime-sponsor it, which I think can happen,” she said.