While New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) navigates scandals about blocked bridges and misused hurricane-relief funds, he’s continuing to conduct business as usual, and on Monday that included vetoing a bill that would make it easier for transgender people to obtain amended birth certificates. Assembly Bill 4097, passed by the legislature in recent months, would allow trans people to change their gender identification without undergoing gender reassignment surgery.
Not all trans people elect to have such surgery, especially because it means sacrificing reproductive ability, and others face financial hurdles in order to obtain it. Under A4097, a health care provider could confirm that an individual was transitioning and that alone would allow them to update all of their documentation. According to Christie’s veto statement, the bill doesn’t maintain “appropriate safeguards”:
A birth certificate is an important legal document. In many instances, the production of a birth certificate is a prerequisite to obtaining other critical identification documents that factor into decisions concerning employment, financial services, education, and travel. 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 be closely scrutinized and sparingly approved.
Unlike many other states, New Jersey already has an administrative process in place to streamline applications to amend birth certificates for gender purposes without court order. Under the proposal before me, however, the sponsors seek to alter the amended birth certificate application process without maintaining appropriate safeguards. Consequently, further consideration is necessary to determine whether to make such significant changes to State law concerning the issuance of vital records.
Garden State Equality’s Troy Stevenson condemned the veto as a “vindictive move to punish the LGBT community,” highlighting that the bill would “have zero effect on anyone else.” Indeed, Christie’s vague allusions to fraud ironically mirror the kind of suspicion — and resulting invasive searches — that transgender people can experience when their identification does not reflect their appearance.
Unless the legislature manages to find the votes to overturn this veto, sterilizing and expensive surgery will still be required in New Jersey for transgender people to achieve full recognition.