It just got a little easier for transgender people to update their birth certificates in New Jersey.
On Wednesday, Gov. Chris Murphy signed a bill removing the surgical requirement for trans individuals who want to change their original birth certificate to match their lived gender identity. In doing so, the Garden State becomes the 17th state to allow trans people to update their documents without completing medical and surgical transition, following states like Connecticut, Hawaii, and Maryland.
The process of obtaining surgery can be extremely expensive, with full gender confirmation costing between $20,000 to $30,000 on average. That’s one of the reasons why only a third of trans people claim to have gone under the knife, making them ineligible to update their birth documents in many states.
Upon signing State Bill 478 into law, Murphy called its passage “an important step forward that will allow transgender individuals to control the disclosure of their transgender status.”
LGBTQ advocates lauded the Democrat for signing the bill into law after former Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the legislation twice. Christie, who left office in January, claimed that allowing trans people to conveniently update their identity documents would lead to fraud.
But Aaron Potenza, director of programs for Garden State Equality, called those requirements “outdated, invasive, and overly burdensome” in a statement.
“Furthermore, we have created a path for people who identify outside the binary to access accurate documents,” Potenza claimed. “I am proud to have worked with the National Center for Transgender Equality, with activists like Babs Siperstein and with our allies in the Legislature, to modernize the process for changing gender markers on New Jersey birth certificates.”
SB 478 also gives trans individuals the choice not to list a gender on their birth certificate, making New Jersey one of just a handful of states to offer a third option for those who identify as nonbinary or genderqueer.
An estimated 25 to 35 percent of transgender people identify outside the male-female binary.
Christian Fuscarino, the executive director of Garden State Equality, claimed in a statement that laws recognizing the wide diversity of trans identities are necessary to ensure “that equality reaches everyone in New Jersey.”
“Transgender people have long stood in solidarity with ‘LGB’ people and here at Garden State Equality we make sure nobody is left behind,” he claimed.
SB 478’s long-awaited passage was accompanied by the enactment of two other laws over the Independence Day holiday. State Bill 493 will permit death certificates to be amended to reflect the lived identity of a transgender person who has since passed away, while State Bill 705 establishes a Transgender Equality Task Force.
The latter is a 17-member board which will make recommendations on improving the lives of trans people in “healthcare, long term care, education, higher education, housing, employment, and criminal justice.”
Murphy highlighted the task force’s creation as crucial to New Jersey’s mission of continuing to further the cause of equal rights for trans people.
“By creating a Transgender Equality Task Force, New Jersey can ensure that all residents receive the protections they deserve,” the governor said this week. “New Jersey will continue to stand with our LGBTQ residents in the continued pursuit of similar rights nationwide.”
Valerie Vainieri Huttle, one of the cosponsors behind the trio of bills signed yesterday, said the reality is that New Jersey’s trans population still needs a great deal of support—and action.
“Antiquated policies and attitudes towards transgender individuals have led to discrimination, violence, depression and suicide,” the Democrat said in a statement. “While tremendous strides have been made in recent years to advance equality for members of the ‘LGB’ community, much more still needs to be done to help protect our brothers and sisters in the ‘T’ community.”
An estimated 30,100 transgender people call the Garden State home, according to UCLA’s The Williams Institute. The pro-LGBTQ think tank estimates there are 1.4 million trans individuals in the U.S. overall.