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Christie vetoes bill allowing new birth certificates for transgender people without surgery

Monday, January 13, 2014
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TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey governor Chris Christie on Monday vetoed a bill that would have allowed transgender citizens to obtain a new birth certificate to reflect their gender identity without surgical requirements.

Chris Christie

Chris Christie

Christie’s veto was absolute, which is means he rejected the law outright and returned the measure to the State Legislature without amendment. A two-thirds vote will now be required to override the governor’s veto in order for the measure to become law — 27 votes in the Senate and 54 votes in the general assembly.

The State’s Senate had passed the measure last month by a vote of 21-11. The lower house approved the measure 43-27 vote in June.

Since 1984, New Jersey law has directed that the state Health Department issue a new birth certificate only to those who have undergone gender reassignment surgery.

But since not every transgender person undergoes surgery, state Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex, N.J.), chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, sponsored the bill to allow for new birth certificates for those who opt only for hormone replacement therapy, supporters of the bill said.

The bill would have allowed a new birth record for people who undergo “clinically appropriate treatment for the purpose of gender transition, based on contemporary medical standards, or that the person has an intersex condition.”

“Birth certificates are the most basic proof of who we are. Our identification documents are a gateway to employment, education and housing. They affect our ability to adopt or retain custody of our children, to secure a loan or to prove to our employers that we are authorized to work,” said Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Jael Humphrey, in testimony delivered before the New Jersey Legislature last month.

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“When the gender marker differs from lived gender on identity documents, or the documents themselves are inconsistent, transgender and intersex people are robbed of their privacy and are more vulnerable to harassment, groundless accusations of fraud, discrimination and even violence,” said Humphrey.

“There is simply no justification for requiring transgender or intersex individuals to undergo unnecessary and often unavailable procedures in order to amend their birth certificates,” said Dru Levasseur, Lambda Legal Transgender Rights Project Director, in a statement.

“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,” said Levasseur.

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