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Birth certificate gender change wins initial Colorado House approval

Birth certificate gender change wins initial Colorado House approval
Colorado state capitol in Denver.
Colorado state capitol in Denver.

DENVER — A bill to allow transgender people to change the gender listings on their birth certificates without undergoing gender-reassignment surgery passed its first test Thursday in the Colorado Legislature.

The bill would also allow people to have their original birth certificates sealed, instead of having them marked to say that the gender has been changed.

“This new birth certificate is about respecting the privacy of the individual,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City.

The bill passed 8-5, but not before some uncomfortable moments when a conservative Republican said that changing gender on a birth certificate without surgery is fraud.

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“It’s one thing to ask someone to pretend. It’s another thing to ask the government to agree with that pretense,” said Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, R-Colorado Springs.

The remarks brought an emotional rebuke from a transgender woman who supported the bill. “I don’t sit in front of you as a fraud. I don’t sit in front of you as a liar. I sit in front of you as a woman who wants her birth certificate to reflect that,” said Sara Connell of Boulder.

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Having identification that’s in sync with a person’s name and appearance could reduce harassment in schools and the workplace, supporters said.

“Transgender Coloradans are faced with discriminatory action in nearly every aspect of their lives,” said Dave Montez of One Colorado, a gay-rights group.

Colorado state registrar of vital statistics, Ron Hyman, told lawmakers that he anticipated only a few dozen people would request the change each year and that officials wouldn’t need extra tax money to accommodate the possible change.

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The only witness to testify against the measure was Michael Norton, a lawyer representing the group Alliance Defending Freedom.

Norton said that transgender people deserve respect but that government documents shouldn’t be altered. “It allows a person to change what is historical and biological fact,” Norton said.

The vote was party-line except for one Republican, Rep. Lois Landgraf of Fountain, who voted for the bill. “This is about individual freedom and rights. It’s even about limited government,” she said.

The measure now awaits a vote by the full House, which is controlled by Democrats. The bill faces long odds in the Senate, which is controlled by the GOP.

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