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DC City Council Modernizes Birth Certificate Policy

Today the Washington, DC City Council modernized the policy making it clearer and easier for transgender people to change the gender on their birth certificate. In addition to dropping outdated and harmful surgical requirements to update ones' records, DC's new policy ensures transgender people will get a new birth certificate, instead of an amended one. It drops the requirement that transgender people get a court order as well, letting people go straight to the agency with a letter from a licensed health care provider.Additionally, the modernized policy allows non-residents of the District who were born in another state to get a court order from DC asking the vital records agency in their state of birth to update their birth certificate, if they need one. The new law in DC makes it a model for the rest of the country.

Prior to this policy change, many transgender people are not able to update their birth certificates because of expensive requirements for sex reassignment surgery. Andy Bowen, a DC local activist working on the bill said of surgical requirements that they "make it a financial difficulty for trans people, many of whom are low income and unemployed, and it's just archaic and makes no sense." The bill also removes the requirement that a person getting a legal name change must publish a notice in the newspaper, which is expensive and which no longer serves any purpose. National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling welcomed the policy update underscoring how fundamental it is for transgender people:

"Having an accurate birth certificate makes it easier to get a job, get a bank account, or get a driver's license. Most people don't think of birth certificates that way, but there are a zillion kids who, in order to get a driver's license, are required to show their birth certificate. And when their driver's license doesn't match who they are, it sets off a lifelong chain of problems setting them up for economic discrimination or violence."

NCTE applauds activist Andy Bowen from the DC Trans Coalition for her work ensuring the bill became law, as well as the Transgender Civil Rights Project of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force for its work to draft and advocate for this legislation. NCTE also thanks the DC City Council, which approved the bill 13-0, and Mayor Vincent Gray for their continued support of transgender people.

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