Council Committee Passes Two Pro-LGBT Bills
The D.C. Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety passed two bills intended to benefit members of the LGBTI community Thursday, allowing District residents to amend the gender on their birth certificates to align with their gender identity, and expanding the ability for people to be authorized as a marriage officiant for specific weddings.
The committee, led by Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), unanimously approved an amended version of the JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013, which amends the Vital Records Act of 1981 to allow individuals to request a new birth certificate that would reflect their gender identity. To amend the gender or name on the new birth certificate, a person must provide a written request and a signed statement from a licensed healthcare provider stating that the individual has undergone a gender transition.
The bill, named after Deoni Jones, a transgender woman who was stabbed and killed while waiting at a bus stop in February 2012, was introduced by Councilmember David Catania (I-At-Large) and co-introduced by Wells and Councilmembers Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), David Grosso (I-At-Large) and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D). Most of the remaining councilmembers signed on as cosponsors, with the exception of Councilmember Marion Barry (D-Ward 8).
In passing the bill, the Judiciary Committee made a number of substantial amendments to the original text that incorporated seven criticisms offered by LGBTI community activists hoping to pass a law that could serve as a model for other states.
One of those changes to the bill eliminates the so-called ’’publication requirement’’ for people seeking a name change, regardless of their gender identity or reason for seeking such a change. The bill does this by repealing a section of the D.C. Official Code that previously required any individual seeking a name or gender change to have that information published in a general circulation newspaper for three consecutive weeks. Proponents of the change say the old requirement requires the person seeking the name or gender change was cost-prohibitive for some, and, moreover, is outdated and a relic from a time when people relied largely on newspapers for their own information consumption. Eighteen other states have already independently eliminated publication requirements for those seeking a change.
Other alterations to the bill included repealing, rather than revising, older language from the D.C. Official Code that required a court order and proof of a surgical procedure for those seeking to change the gender on their birth certificates; and allowing those who seek such changes to obtain a ’’clean’’ birth certificate that would not be marked ’’amended’’ or give any other indication there had been a change in gender designation.
The bill also allows any licensed health care provider, not just those licensed in the District of Columbia, to sign the statement attesting to the fact that a person has undergone a gender transition. In pushing for this change, activists argued that requiring a practitioner to be licensed in the District would exclude a number of doctors in Maryland and Virginia who specialize in treating transgender patients who reside in the District but seek competent medical care elsewhere.
Another change added clarifying language in the signed statement that would attest that the individual had undergone ’’surgical, hormonal or other treatment appropriate for the individual,’’ in order to ensure people would not have to subject themselves to treatment deemed unnecessary by their health care provider.
The revised bill also included new language addressing the issue of people with intersex conditions, meaning those that do not have genitalia that can be distinctly classified as male or female. Those with intersex conditions are often forced to undergo surgery after birth to adhere to one particular gender that may not align with their gender identity. The new law would allow that gender designation to be corrected if needed, once the person becomes older and their gender identity more developed.