Last year Governor Christie vetoed a bill that would drop the requirement for a sex change operation in order to amend an individual’s sex on their birth certificate. On Thursday, an Assembly committee approved a new version of that bill.
Sponsored by Englewood Democrat Valerie Vainieri Huttle, the bill returns to the Legislature amid national attention to transgender issues after the former Olympian Bruce Jenner revealed he identifies as a woman. Jenner now goes by Caitlyn, and though she has not had sex reassignment surgery, says she is a woman in her mental state and lifestyle.
Current law requires individuals who want to change the sex on their birth certificate to provide certification that they have undergone a surgical procedure. The bill approved Thursday creates a new requirement for the individual to prove “clinically appropriate treatment for the purpose of gender transition, or that the person has an intersex condition.”
Last year the American Medical Association called for states to do away with requiring surgery in order to amend sex classifications on birth certificates, saying that such a requirement does not reflect current medical options to change one’s sex.
“This legislation recognizes that not all transgendered individuals undergo sex reassignment surgery. However, they live every day as the gender they identify as, rather than the gender they are born with,” Huttle said before the panel released the bill by a vote of four to one. “Some transgender individuals have transition plans that do not include surgery or they simply cannot afford it. So the result is forcing these individuals to have government I.D. documents that are not consistent with who they are.”
Andrea Bowen, executive director of the gay rights group Garden State Equality, called the bill a “good government measure”
because it would bring New Jersey in line with other federal and state standards.
For example, the U.S. Department of State does not require proof of surgery to change an individual’s sex on a passport, just proof from their physician that they have undergone the appropriate clinical treatment for transition. And a number of other states, including New York, Connecticut and California, allow people to amend the gender on their birth certificate without proof of surgery, Bowen said.
When Christie vetoed the bill last year, he said allowing the change “may result in significant legal opportunities and create opportunities for fraud, deception and abuse.” Christie’s office did not respond for comment Thursday.
Opponents of the proposal said birth certificates are a historical document and should not be changed because they capture a moment in time.
“Now we are suggesting that we are changing that history to accommodate or amend the whims of another individual,” said Greg Quinlan, of the New Jersey Family Policy Council, a religious-based organization. He added that sexual reassignment surgery is damaging to people with mental illness. “To vote for this bill is an act of hate. It is enabling a mental disorder, and it should not be passed.”
Proponents like Pam Daniels, a former Bergen County resident and a founding member of Equality GOP NJ, said New Jersey already allows people to change the sex on their driver’s licenses with certification from their physician; she said she did just that a year and a half ago.
“All we’re doing with this bill is housekeeping. It is not partisan, it is not complicated and it is certainly not controversial,” she said.
The Senate version of the bill is awaiting a vote by the full Senate.