Metro Weekly

D.C. Birth Certificate Bill Passes Second Vote

Legislation named for late Deoni Jones will help transgender and intersex residents correct birth certificates

The D.C. Council today unanimously approved on a voice vote the JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013, which allows transgender and intersex residents to amend their birth certificates to reflect their correct personal information, such as gender and name, and obtain unmarked, updated copies of the certificates.

Past protocols required individuals to go through a cumbersome process requiring gender changes be published along with other personal information in a general circulation newspaper for three consecutive weeks, at personal cost. Those birth certificates were also marked ”amended,” alerting those in a position to review such certificates of changes, putting some transgender people at risk of outing themselves.

The legislation requires a written and signed request for a new certificate, along with a statement from a licensed health care professional attesting that an applicant has received treatment appropriate for a gender transition. It also allows D.C. residents born elsewhere to obtain court orders asking authorities in their places of birth to issue corrected birth certificates.

The bill now heads to Mayor Vincent Gray (D), who is expected to sign it into law. Once Gray signs the bill, it must undergo the requisite 30-day congressional review. If Congress does not intervene, the bill should take effect sometime in the fall of 2013.

”Once the mayor signs this bill, trans people in D.C. will have freer lives, safer from the threat of being outed, safer from discrimination,” said the D.C. Trans Coalition’s (DCTC) Andy Bowen, the local activist who spearheaded the legislative push for the bill and who worked with the staff of Councilmembers Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) to move the bill through the committees they chair – health, and judiciary and public safety, respectively.

Richard J. Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA), hailed the bill as ”model legislation” that could be copied by other states, and commended Bowen and Lisa Mottet, director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Transgender Civil Rights Project, for their work on the bill.

Rosendall said he has no reason to think that Congress will intervene with the legislation, particularly since the body did not block marriage equality in the District, nor more controversial pieces of legislation.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), called the victory ”huge.”

”It is the model policy we think we can do right now,” Keisling told Metro Weekly after the vote, praising DCTC for its work. ”It’s the best one in the country.”

She added that the bill’s provision to allow D.C. residents to obtain court orders to amend birth certificates from other states is especially important.

”It’s really significant,” Keisling said of the breadth of the bill. ”Most people take for granted that all the IDs they have match, and most people don’t have to show their birth certificate or other documents to prove their identity.”

Keisling also pointed out that, if the personal information on a person’s documents don’t match, it often singles out that individual unnecessarily, infringes on their privacy, and may even force that person to out himself or herself as transgender.

”That can be dangerous,” Keisling noted, ”Both economically, where you can be discriminated against, but also physically. We’ve seen a rash of crimes directed against transgender people in the District.”

”What D.C. is doing here is really leading the other states in making good, commonsense legislation that understands where science is and where medicine is, and doing the right thing,” she said.

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