The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) is disappointed to report Governor Christie vetoed a bill today that would have made it easier for transgender individuals to get new birth certificates issued with the correct name and gender. The bill passed the NJ General Assembly in June 2013 and the NJ Senate in December and was poised to modernize New Jersey’s outdated birth certificate statute which has not been updated in decades.
NCTE Deputy Executive Director Lisa Mottet criticized the Governor for the veto:
“NCTE is extremely disappointed that Governor Christie vetoed this basic, modernization bill that would make transgender people’s lives easier by allowing them to more easily update their birth certificate to match who they are. His stated concern for fraud and abuse has no basis, given the safeguards in the bill as well as the experience that other states have had with similar laws; he clearly did not do his homework. This means all the transgender people born in New Jersey are facing ‘traffic lane closed’ signs instead of being able to live their everyday lives without unnecessary barriers put up by the government.”
The veto statement of the Governor shows a deep misunderstanding of the basic modernization purpose of the bill. The birth certificate bill would have dropped the outdated requirement that individuals undergo surgery before they can update the gender marker on their birth certificate. Instead, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health emphasizes that appropriate clinical treatment for transgender individuals includes a range of treatments; surgical procedures can be too expensive for some individuals, some have medical conditions that preclude surgery, and others do not need or desire this particular treatment. Transgender people, especially transgender young people, need birth certificates with their proper names and correct gender to avoid harassment and discrimination when applying for school, getting jobs, and applying for other identity documents.
The Governor showed his lack of awareness about the transgender community in his veto statement, which stated the bill created “opportunities for fraud, deception, and abuse.” Quite the opposite, the bill would have allowed transgender individuals to obtain documentation that matches the gender they live as, and would have decreased the likelihood that authorities would be prompted to unnecessarily spend time investigating transgender individuals for fraud or deception due to mismatched government documents. States such as Washington, Oregon, California, Vermont and the District of Columbia have already modernized their birth certificate laws. Had Governor Christie done his homework, he would know that modernizing the statute carried no risk of fraud.
The bill had passed 21-11 in the Senate and 43-27 in the Assembly. NCTE provided significant support during the drafting, hearing, and voting stages of the legislation.
Many transgender people, including transgender young people, and their parents, testified on behalf of this bill. These young people and their parents were hoping that Governor Christie would sign this bill, with dreams that they would finally have government documents that match who they are. Unfortunately, his action today unnecessarily prolongs their distress.
NCTE urges the LGBT people and allies to speak out and hold Governor Christie accountable for this irresponsible and disappointing veto.