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NJ governor vetoes bill that makes amending gender markers easier

'New Jersey’s onerous surgery requirement is out-of-step with contemporary standards': Lambda Legal

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has vetoed a bill that would have allowed transgender people to change the gender classification on their birth certificates more easily. Credit:

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has vetoed a bill, which garnered strong support in the state's house and senate, that would have permitted transgender people to change their gender classification on birth certificates without having to undergo surgery.

The vetoed legislation reads, "Under current law, the State registrar is to issue an amended certificate of birth upon receipt of a medical certificate from the person’s physician indicating that his or her sex has been changed by surgical procedure.  This bill would change the requirement to provide that a person could submit a form provided by the State registrar and completed by the person's licensed health care provider which indicates that the person has undergone clinically appropriate treatment for the purpose of gender transition, based on contemporary medical standards, or that the person has an intersex condition."

It further states, "The purpose of the bill is to acknowledge that individuals do not necessarily undergo sex reassignment surgery when changing sex, and to revise the process for obtaining an amended certificate of birth due to a change in sex to reflect current practices."

But Christie says the proposed changes in Bill 4097 open the door to "legal uncertainties" and to fraud and abuse.

In his justification for rejecting the measure, Christie adds that the state "already has an administrative process in place to streamline applications to amend birth certificates for gender purposes without court order."

He continues, "Under the proposal before me, however, the sponsors seek to alter the amended birth certificate application process without maintaining appropriate safeguards. Consequently, further consideration is necessary to determine whether to make such significant changes to State law concerning the issuance of vital records.

"Accordingly, I herewith return Assembly Bill No 4097 without my approval."

A number of LGBT advocacy groups criticized Christie's decision. 

BuzzFeed quotes the head of Garden State Equality as saying that the veto is a "vindictive move."

Lambda Legal also weighed in on the issue, saying that New Jersey "declined to join a growing list of states and federal entities which have modernized their policies for changing gender markers on identification documents, including the US Department of State and the Social Security Administration." 

“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," says Dru Levasseur, the director of Lambda Legal's Transgender Rights Project.

The bill will be reintroduced in the coming legislative session, BuzzFeed reports.