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Advocates Enraged at Christie’s Trans Rights Veto

by Justin Snow
Sunday Jan 19, 2014
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Chris Christie
Chris Christie  (Source:Tim Larsen/Governor’s Office)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed legislation Monday that would have lessened the requirements for transgender individuals seeking to obtain an amended birth certificate in what one advocate calls a "vindictive move to punish the LGBT community."

Passed by New Jersey lawmakers last year, the bill would have lifted the requirement that a person must undergo sex-reassignment surgery to obtain an amended birth certificate from the state registrar of vital statistics. Moreover, under the legislation transgender people seeking an amended birth certificate could apply by having their health care provider complete a form indicating that they have "undergone clinically appropriate treatment for the purpose of gender transition, based on contemporary medical standards" or demonstrating they have an "intersex condition."

According to the bill itself, its purpose 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."

For Christie, however, who has walked a fine line in his support for LGBT rights, "further consideration" is needed before he is comfortable signing the bill into law.

Noting that a birth certificate is often the prerequisite for other forms of identification, the Republican governor and likely 2016 presidential candidate stated that "proposed measures that revise the standards for the issuance of amended birth certificates may result in significant legal uncertainties and create opportunities for fraud, deception, and abuse, and should therefore be closely scrutinized and sparingly approved."

"Unlike many other states, New Jersey already has an administrative process in place to streamline applications to amend birth certificates for gender purposes without court order," Christie said in a statement announcing his veto. "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."

Christie’s veto of the legislation was a defeat for LGBT advocates who have enjoyed a wave of recent victories in the Garden State, leading the state’s largest LGBT organization to respond with anger.

According to Garden State Equality Executive Director Troy Stevenson, "Governor Christie’s veto of this legislation was a vindictive move to punish the LGBT community after a year of tremendous progress."

Indeed, same-sex marriage became legal in New Jersey in October after the Christie administration dropped its legal battle against a state court’s ruling in favor of marriage equality (Christie vetoed same-sex marriage legislation in February 2012) and two months prior Christie signed legislation making New Jersey the second state in the nation to outlaw "ex-gay" therapy for minors.

"This was a simple bureaucratic change, which would have offered tremendous support to the transgender community, and have zero effect on anyone else," Stevenson continued. "The governor’s security argument is disingenuous at best, as there is already a process for one to change their gender marker; this legislation would simply end an unnecessary surgical requirement. This malicious use of the veto pen is shameful and beneath the office of governor."

Barbra Casbar Siperstein, political director of the Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey went further, accusing Christie of having not read the bill and conflating it with legislation from another state.

"Endorsed by the NJ Bar and compliant with contemporary medical standards, new Federal standards, revenue positive, it appears that this veto is arbitrary, capricious and designed to harm transgender people who are the most vulnerable among LGBT New Jerseyans," Siperstein said in a statement.

The bill was approved by the New Jersey General Assembly in June 43-27 with seven abstentions and by the state Senate in December with a 21-11 vote. With 54 votes needed in the state Assembly and 27 needed in the state Senate, it is unlikely lawmakers will be able to overcome Christie’s veto.

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