D.C. lawmakers are rallying around a bill introduced Tuesday that would amend the Vital Records Act of 1981 to allow transgender individuals born in the District more easily obtain new birth certificates reflecting correct gender and, in some cases, new name.
The bill, co-introduced by Councilmembers David Catania (I-At Large), David Grosso (I-At Large), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), and co-sponsored by the remaining members of the D.C. Council, has been named the "JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013," in honor of the transgender woman who died last year after being stabbed in the face while waiting at a Northeast bus stop.
According to Andy Bowen, social policy organizer for the DC Trans Coalition (DCTC), the bill is a technical modernization of D.C.’s laws to enable individuals who transition genders to have their sex and name, if applicable, recorded on their birth certificates. That change will make it easier for individuals who need to use their birth certificate as proof of identification for common activities ranging from finding employment to obtaining a new driver’s license to applying for a passport.
The first major element of the proposed bill requires that a new birth certificate reflecting a person’s expressed gender be issued upon receipt of a written and signed request from the individual born in the District (or the applicant's parent, guardian or legal representative in the case of a minor) and a signed statement from a licensed health care provider who has treated or evaluated the person applying for a new certificate, which attests that the applicant has received treatment for a gender transition. That new certificate will be substituted for the original birth certificate, with the original being sealed and made available only upon the request of the individual to whom it pertains or by court order.
Such procedures bring the District in line with policies currently used by the State Department regarding gender reassignment, Bowen said.
The second major element of the bill exempts individuals transitioning from having to fulfill publication requirements that once required those in the process of transitioning gender to publish their names in a newspaper for three consecutive weeks.
"The bill lowers the risk of outing, and thus, discrimination, allowing trans people in D.C. to live freer and safer lives," Bowen told Metro Weekly in an interview Tuesday.
The bill has not yet been scheduled for a hearing, but is slated for a hearing before two committees – the Committee on Health, chaired by Councilmember Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), and the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, chaired by Wells – before it receives a vote from the full D.C. Council.
Bowen told Metro Weekly that the bill will likely receive a hearing in front of the Committee on Health sometime in April, but there has been no word on when it will be taken up by the Judiciary Committee.
[Photo: Councilmember David Catania, photographed by Todd Franson/Metro Weekly]