Metro Weekly

New Jersey governor signs three transgender rights bills into law

Bills allow people to amend their vital records to reflect their gender identity, and create a special transgender task force

Phil Murphy – Photo: Phil Murphy for Governor, via Flickr.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) has signed three pro-transgender bills into law that had been blocked by his Republican predecessor, former Gov. Chris Christie.

One of the new laws will allow transgender people to amend their birth certificates to accurately reflect their gender identity. The law only requires a doctor’s note confirming that the person has undergone a gender transition, and does not require them to undergo sometimes unnecessary and often costly gender confirmation surgery.

Additionally, the law will allow people who identify outside of the gender binary to choose a third, non-binary option for their gender marker on vital documents — making New Jersey just the fifth jurisdiction in the United States to offer a third gender option on official state documents.

Christie previously vetoed two previous versions of the bill, arguing that allowing people to change their gender markers without evidence of surgery could increase opportunities for “fraud, deception, and abuse,” and — due to the birth certificates use to obtain documents like passports or driver’s licenses, somehow posed a risk to national security. 

The state’s LGBTQ rights group, Garden State Equality, praised passage of the birth certificate bill.

“New Jersey has finally removed the outdated, invasive, and overly burdensome proof-of-surgery requirement. Furthermore, we have created a path for people who identify outside the binary to access accurate documents,” Aaron Potenza, the group’s director of programs, said in a statement. “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.”

The second bill approved by Murphy is similar in scope, except it allows death certificates to be amended to reflect a decedent’s chosen gender identity.

The third law signed by Murphy creates a Transgender Equality Task Force, a 17-member body that will deal with addressing and lessening barriers that prevent transgender people from enjoying the full benefits of equality, especially in the areas of criminal justice, health care, and housing.

“Today is an important day for New Jersey as we continue to strive toward equality for all of our residents, regardless of sex or gender expression,” Murphy said in a statement.

“Allowing vital records to match gender identity is an important step forward that will allow transgender individuals to control the disclosure of their transgender status,” he added. “And by creating a Transgender Equality Task Force, New Jersey can ensure that all residents receive the protections they deserve. New Jersey will continue to stand with our LGBTQ residents in the continued pursuit of similar rights nationwide.”

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Shelf Wood
John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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