Legislatively trending: Birth Certificates

House Bill 2673 has cleared the Oregon House on a 37-23 vote. The Bill allows people with birth certificates issued in the state to be updated in a private interaction with the Oregon Health Authority, allowing people to avoid public paper trails and court involvement.

Proponents say nine in 10 transgender Oregonians do not have vital records that accurately reflect their names and genders, which can hamper their abilities to get health care, housing or a job. It’s also seen as a way for Oregon to protect against discrimination as protections for transgender youth were recently revoked at the federal level.

I used to think changing my birth certificate had no importance in my life, but times have changed. Legislative hate is brewing in way too many states. I'll have to check out whether this new process can be engaged online.

Meanwhile Colorado has debated the Birth Certificate Modernization Act and it has passed out of a House Committee. HB17-1122 would ease requirements for changing gender on one’s birth certificate. Currently, the state requires that a court order indicating transitional surgery, and a court order indicating a legal name change, are required to change gender on a birth certificate. An outdated set of requirements, to be sure, and needlessly restrictive.

Many transgender people choose not to surgically transition, through reasons either personal or financial. And for these people, having an inaccurate birth certificate could result in being denied opportunities to jobs and housing. Considering transgender homelessness and unemployment rates are high across the country, it is vital we provide transgender and gender nonconforming people with as many opportunities as we can.

Under the new bill, all that would be required to change gender on one’s birth certificate is a written request (either from the person themselves or their parent/guardian if that person happens to be a minor) and a statement from a medical or mental health care provider stating that someone has undergone some kind of transitional treatment. There are more narrowly defined guidelines that you can read for yourself, but those broad strokes capture the idea.

It is unlikely however that the bill will pass out of the Republican-controlled House.

In Illinois a bill that would make it easier to have one's birth certificate changed passed out of committee.

A longtime Illinois law says transgender people can only change the sex listed on their birth certificates if a doctor says they've had transition surgery. Under a new plan approved by a House committee, a birth certificate could be changed if a medical or mental health provider confirms someone has received "clinically appropriate" treatment. A range of practices including hormone therapy would be covered, using a similar standard that applies to U.S. passports.

Supporters say doing away with the surgery requirement would relieve a burden put on transgender men and women and reflects scientific findings that operations are not a necessary medical treatment. Grayson Alexander, a high school senior in Springfield, said he can't change his birth certificate in Illinois because he can't afford surgery without jeopardizing his plans to attend college.

Ralph Rivera of the conservative Illinois Family Institute told lawmakers at Wednesday's hearing the legislation is too lax and would not limit how often people can change their sex designations. He also contended the proposal could allow some people to prey on children or further traumatize sexual assault victims in restrooms.

Rivera's attempts to link the issue to sexual predators is beyond reprehensible and really beneath humanity.

--Rep. Kelly Cassidy, (D-Chicago)

Finally, Arkansas HB 1894 would prohibit changes to the gender marker on any Arkansas birth certificate.

This bill is a mean-spirited attempt to further marginalize and target transgender Arkansans by denying them the dignity of having their official government documents reflect who they are. Not allowing transgender people to change the gender marker on their birth certificate opens them up to all types of discrimination — including in housing, employment and health care. This bill is dangerous, insidious, and HRC Arkansas opposes it.

--Kendra Johnson, HRC Arkansas

Current state law makes it difficult and expensive for transgender people to update their birth certificate, requiring them to undergo surgery just to get an amended document. It is shameful that this law exists, given that medical professionals recommend individualized courses of gender transition. Even among those for whom surgery is appropriate, many cannot receive it because their insurance doesn’t cover such care, appropriate providers may not be available, and medical procedures may not be an option because of a pre-existing condition.

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