Here’s how N.J. could soon give a big boost to transgender rights

People whose gender identity conflicts with their sex at birth trying to live a transgender life face unique forms of discrimination lesbian and gay people do not confront.

The law in New Jersey does not allow transgender people to change their birth certificates to reflect their gender unless they have sexual reassignment surgery, which happens less often. And their death certificates must record the physical identity to which they are born.

A package of legislation that passed the state Assembly on Thursday seeks to rectify those indignities, according to Assemblywoman Valerie Vaineri Huttle, D-Bergen, one of the prime sponsors of the three-bill package.

“Now more than ever, we need to stand up for those who are being marginalized,” Vainieri Huttle said during the Assembly voting session Thursday.

“Antiquated policies and attitudes towards transgender individuals have led to discrimination, violence, depression and suicide. While tremendous strides have been made in recent years to advance equality for members of the ‘LGB’ community much more still needs to be done to help protect our brothers and sisters in the ‘T’ community,” she said.

Joining her on the floor of the Assembly was Babs Siperstein, a Jersey City native who lives in Edison who was the first elected transgender member of the Democratic National Committee in 2012. They named the law amending birth certificates after Siperstein.

A 2016 report by the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law estimated 30,100 transgender people call New Jersey home. There are 1.4 million transgender people living in the United States, according to the report.

Christian Fuscarino, executive director for Garden State Equality, a civil rights group, said he was grateful for the legislation. “Gov. Phil Murphy has been staunch ally to our community and we fully expect that he will be signing all three bills this June,” he said.

Here’s what the Assembly approved to boost transgender rights:

A1718, which requires the state Registrar of Vital Statistics to issue an amended birth certificate to a person born in the state containing the transgender person’s name and sex. A parent or guardian may make the request on a child’s behalf. The bill awaits action in the Senate.

A1726, which permits the person planning the funeral for a transgender person to request the death certificate be amended to reflect the person’s identity. The transgender person may also leave behind a document “providing proof of clinical treatment for gender transition may be used to memorialize a gender transition.” The bill has now passed both the Assembly and Senate and awaits action by Murphy, a Democrat.

Fuscarino called this “a respect in death act…that will allow transgender people to be remembered as they lived by adding gender identity to the categories listed on a New Jersey death certificate.”

A1727 establishing a transgender quality task force “to assess legal and societal barriers to equality” and recommend future laws to prevent discrimination. This bill is also on Murphy’s desk.

“With these bills we can strengthen the law to ensure protection of our transgender residents and their livelihoods,” said Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin, D-Middlesex, also a prime sponsor.

“Discrimination, harassment, decreased educational and employment opportunities, as well as barriers to clinically-appropriate healthcare and social services will continue to harm them unless we take a stand,” Pinkin said.

Susan K. Livio may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @SusanKLivio. Find Politics on Facebook.

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