Chris Christie signs two pro-transgender bills into law

The new laws take New Jersey in the opposite direction Trump is taking the country.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Matt Rourke
CREDIT: AP Photo/Matt Rourke

On Friday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) surprised many when he signed two different bills advancing transgender equality into law. While both are positive advancements for the state, they coincidentally mirror prominent ways the Trump administration is rolling back transgender rights.

One of the bills, S3067, directs the state Commissioner of Education to develop guidelines for ensuring “a supportive and nondiscriminatory environment for transgender students” in New Jersey schools. The bill specifies that the guidelines should address the following:

  • Protecting transgender students from discrimination and harassment
  • Ensuring the confidentiality and privacy of transgender students
  • Ensuring students are addressed by their preferred names and pronouns
  • Recognizing students’ gender identities, including on their student ID cards and in the enforcement of dress codes
  • Allowing trans students to participate in gender-segregated activities in accordance with their gender identity
  • Never requiring trans students to use restrooms or locker rooms that conflict with their gender identity

Obviously, the guidelines will still have to be developed, but the law doesn’t leave much room for them to allow schools to discriminate against transgender students.

The other bill, A4568, prohibits state-licensed hospitals, health providers, health insurers, and Medicaid from refusing service to an individual because they are transgender. The nondiscrimination protections are fairly sweeping, protecting trans people from being denied coverage, being charged more, having their identity be designated as a pre-existing condition, or being denied any service or claim that would be provided to a cisgender patient.

The bill seems to be a response to the story of Jionni Conforti, a transgender man who sued a Catholic hospital in New Jersey earlier this year after being denied a hysterectomy that is medically necessary as part of his transition. Though the hospital provides the procedure for cisgender women who need it, it refused to provide it to Conforti based on the religious beliefs the hospital is bound by.

Both laws take New Jersey in a very different direction than President Trump is trying to take the country on trans rights. Earlier this year, the administration rescinded guidance the Obama administration had issued protecting transgender students, which it then followed up with weaker guidance that still allows schools to discriminate.

The Trump administration also declared in a court filing that it would similarly seek to rollback guidance issued under Obamacare protecting transgender people from discrimination in health care. That guidance was challenged in court, and when a judge halted its enforcement, the Trump administration chose not to appeal.

Christie’s record on LGBTQ issues could be described as mixed at best. He opposed same-sex marriage, but when the state’s ban on same-sex marriage failed in court, he chose not to fight the decision. In 2013, he signed a bill banning harmful ex-gay therapy for minors, but he has twice vetoed bills that would make it easier for transgender people to change the gender marker on their birth certificates. He said he had concerns that the easier guidelines would somehow allow for “fraud, deception, and abuse.”