New bill aims to make it impossible to change gender marker on Virginia birth certificates
The process for transgender people to change the gender marker on their birth certificates in the Commonwealth isn’t necessarily easy, but there are currently steps in place to make it happen.
But a Delegate from one of the state’s most northern districts is hoping to make it impossible for it to happen in any way.
HB 431, sponsored by Del. Dave LaRock (R-33), aims to allow people to change the gender marker on their state issued birth certificate only if the “initial designation of sex was incorrect due to a typographical error.”
Kate Fletcher, a local attorney whose handled gender marker change cases in the state for years, described the process currently in place:
A transgender person would have to receive a court order from a judge which shows the need for the change. The judge requires some kind of documentation, usually from a doctor, endocrinologist, or phycologist which shows the person is transitioning, are receiving medical treatment or have received surgery. A letter explaining your story, “my birth certificate says one gender and it should say another gender,” is also required.
Those documents are submitted to a judge who approves the order and it is then passed on to the state Department of Vital Records who then can change the marker.
The process, though possible, is not easy and invasive as local transwoman Melissa Paige explained to GayRVA late last year:
Even though Paige had been living as a woman full time since 2007, the department of vital records needed a pile of documents, among them was detailed proof she had undergone gender reassignment surgery.
“Somebody’s who’s smart enough could probably take [a copy of what I turned in] and do the surgery themselves,” Paige said about the extent of the details the state needed. ”How much gausses they used, how many centimeters they cut, what tool they used to cauterize. It’s my whole entire surgery on paper.”
Luckily she’d had friends who went through the process before, so she had an idea of what to expect. The process took about four months, and one trip to the department to make sure she got the documents done.
But once she had her birth certificate in order, all her other documents – from her drivers licenses to her social security card – fell into place.
“It was boom boom boom, got the rest done,” she said.
(see the proposed amended law below with the language struck-through)
“It’s certainly more complicated than a drivers license change (which requires a doctor’s letter submitted to the DMV),” said Fletcher.
Currently Idaho, Kansas, Tennessee and Ohio are the only states who will not change gender markers on birth certificates for any reason. If LaRock’s bill were to pass, Virginia would join those four states.
“In order to live safe, full, and authentic lives, it is essential that transgender people have access to identity documents, such as photo ID, that accurately reflect their current name, gender identity, and gender expression,” reads the ID Marker section of the Transgender Law Center’s website.
Conversely, Equality Virginia is working toward easing the process of gender marker changes through the department of Vital Records with an online public comment period running over the next few months.
“Are there not other issues that are so much more important than this?” remarked Fletcher, when asked about her own opinion of the bill. “There’s certain people out there grasping at straws, trying to damp down the LGBTQ community in any way they can, to make life more difficult for them.”
LaRock, along with famed anti-LGBTQ delegate Bob Marshall, has also authored a bill which aims to force transgender students to use the restroom aligned their birth gender, as well as remove protections for LGBTQ students in state schools.
GayRVA has reached out to Delegate LaRock for comment on HB 431 but has yet to hear back by press time.
Stay tuned to GayRVA for more GA coverage as the session begins next week.
While we are all different, there are parts of our identities, our shared experiences, that make us all the same.September 21, 2016
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