BREAKING NEWS: New York State Modernizes Requirements for Birth Certificate Gender Markers | National Center for Transgender Equality

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: New York State Modernizes Requirements for Birth Certificate Gender Markers

The New York State Department of Health, and Governor Andrew Cuomo, just announced it has modernized its policy regarding updating gender markers on birth certificates. New York joins several other states, as well as the federal government, in modernizing birth certificate policies and removing burdensome and unnecessary barriers so that individuals can obtain a birth certificate that reflects who they are. Many New York-based organizations have been advocating for an updated policy over the last several years and NCTE is proud to have participated in these advocacy efforts. New York State’s previous policy, in place since the 1970s, required an individual to undergo sexual reassignment surgery as a condition to change the sex listed on their birth certificate. Now, the policy change allows individuals to update the sex on their birth certificate by submitting a letter from a licensed medical provider stating that the individual is undergoing appropriate clinical treatment.

New York State’s previous policy, in place since the 1970s, required an individual to undergo sexual reassignment surgery as a condition to change the sex listed on their birth certificate. Now, the policy change allows individuals to update the sex on their birth certificate by submitting a letter from a licensed medical provider stating that the individual is undergoing appropriate clinical treatment. Coincidentally, this announcement follows on the heels of a joint UN report which is highly critical of identity document policies that require surgery because such requirements can amount to forced sterilization. This policy change aligns New York with other states that have made similar modernizations to their birth certificate policies (CA, DC, OR, VT, and WA). Though New York’s new policy is a dramatic improvement over the old policy, the best birth certificate modernization policy comes out of Washington, DC, which became law in 2013. NCTE urges New York City, which administers birth certificates separately from the state, to adopt similar changes. The New York State’s modernization is part of a greater trend of removing outdated requirements, such as surgery and court orders, from the gender marker change process. NCTE has played a vital role in modernizing gender marker change policies with various government agencies, and as a result individuals can readily update the gender marker on their U.S. Passports, on Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, on immigration-related identity documents with the Department of Homeland Security, and in records with the Social Security Administration. These policy updates are crucial to the lives and well-being of transgender individuals in the United States. According to the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 41% of transgender people live without identification that matches their gender identity. Lack of updated identification is a threat to safety, causes problems getting a job or enrolling in school, and presents hurdles to applying for housing and public benefits. If you are involved in modernizing antiquated birth certificate policies, driver’s licenses, or name change in your state, NCTE can support your efforts. Please contact Arli Christian, Policy Counsel, at achristian@transequality.org. Information about New York’s new procedure and updating New York identity documents, can be found here.

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