Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Jan. 13 vetoed a bill to allow transgender people to update the gender marker on their birth certificates to match their lived gender.
The bill passed by strong majorities in both the House and Senate. The governor's veto means the existing law stands, which contains a requirement that transgender people undergo surgical procedures to obtain an accurate birth certificate.
Christie's veto message said, "Birth certificates are often required to complete myriad security-related tasks. Accordingly, proposed measures that revise the standards for the issuance of amended birth certificates may result in significant legal uncertainties and create opportunities for fraud, deception, and abuse, and should therefore by closely scrutinized and sparingly approved."
The statement also said "New Jersey already has an administrative process in place to streamline applications to amend birth certificates for gender purposes without court order."
Responding, in a news release, Dru Levasseur of Lambda Legal's Transgender Rights Project, said, "There is simply no justification for requiring transgender or intersex individuals to undergo unnecessary and often unavailable procedures in order to amend their birth certificates. New Jersey’s onerous surgery requirement is out-of-step with contemporary standards for transgender health care and imposes a hurdle that many cannot and should not have to meet simply to have identity documents that reflect who they are."
A Lambda representative testified in favor of the legislation in December. Staff attorney Jael Humphrey told lawmakers that "birth certificates are the most basic proof of who we are."
Humphrey continued, "Our identification documents are a gateway to employment, education and housing. They affect our ability to adopt or retain custody of our children, to secure a loan or to prove to our employers that we are authorized to work. When the gender marker differs from lived gender on identity documents, or the documents themselves are inconsistent, transgender and intersex people are robbed of their privacy and are more vulnerable to harassment, groundless accusations of fraud, discrimination and even violence."
Other states and U.S. agencies have modernized policies regarding birth certificates and other documents, including the State Department and the Social Security Administration.
The New Jersey bill would have mandated a new birth record for people who have undergone “clinically appropriate treatment for the purpose of gender transition, based on contemporary medical standards.”
State Sen. Joseph Vitale sponsored the measure. The bill passed in the Senate in late December, 21-11. Assembly members approved the bill in June, 43-27.