Metro Weekly

New Oregon law makes it easier to change transgender birth certificates

Law eliminates requirement that trans people give public notice of their intent to amend their vital information

Governor Kate Brown, Credit – Oregon Department of Transportation / Flickr

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) has signed a bill into law that allows transgender individuals to amend their name and gender marker on their birth certificates without having to obtain a court order. 

The new law, which only requires an individual to fill out a form, will take effect in January 2018.

Under the old law, any transgender resident seeking to amend information on vital records had to petition for a court order allowing a gender marker or name change, and had to post a public notice on the bulletin board of a local county clerk’s office indicating that they intended to make such a change.

Transgender activists have long objected to such stringent measures, noting that a court order can be hard to obtain, particularly if a transgender person has few financial resources. Additionally, they argued, having to post public notice could be a deterrent for some, as listing their name and personal information publicly could potentially make them a target for violence or harassment. Nora Broker, one of the witnesses who testified in favor of the bill, said this is especially true in smaller, more rural communities.

“[I]n a small community, everyone is under close scrutiny — your life is inherently public, because everyone is so aware of one another,” Broker said in a statement. “This makes it all the more terrifying to face posting a name and gender change publicly, or to face a hearing in open court. Folks in small communities like my home town have a particularly compelling need for a more private pathway.”

The state’s Office of Vital Records is still in the process of developing the new forms. The LGBTQ group estimates that the cost of requesting a name or gender change will only cost $65, reports Reuters.

Oregon is the second state, after California, to enact this progressive form of legislation. The District of Columbia also passed a similar law in 2013, eliminating a previous requirement for residents to publish proposed name or gender changes in a general circulation newspaper for three consecutive weeks. That law, named after transgender murder victim Deoni Jones, has helped ease many District residents’ transition process since its approval, allowing them to obtain new birth certificates without any evidence that the information on it has been amended.

“Having a driver’s license, credit cards, and insurance card that accurately reflect one’s name and gender simply makes it easier to get a job, housing, and access medical care,” Nancy Haque, Basic Rights Oregon’s co-executive director, said in a statement. “It’s really encouraging to see this kind of leadership by the Oregon legislature on transgender equality at a time when the Trump Administration is rolling back protections.”

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