Lambda Legal Applauds NY Birth Certificate Policy Change for Transgender People

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June 5, 2014
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Lambda Legal Transgender Rights Project Director M. Dru Levasseur

Lambda Legal applauds Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and his administration for removing the surgical requirement for New Yorkers to obtain a gender marker change on their birth certificates. This change brings New York in line with a number of federal agencies and a growing number of states that are modernizing their standards for gender marker change. Just this past week, the American Medical Association (AMA) stated its position that transgender people should not be required to have surgery in order to amend their birth certificates, and that “[s]tate laws must acknowledge that the correct course of treatment for any given individual is a decision that rests with the patient and their physician.” (link to http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/news/news/2014/2014-06-09-modernizing-birth-certificate-policies.page)

Until this change, the policy hadn't been updated since the 1970s. The outdated policy did not comport with appropriate medical care guidelines for transgender individuals for whom surgery is not warranted or desired. Under the new policy, transgender people over eighteen can change their gender markers by providing certification from a physician confirming that they have had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition, not just surgery. This is significant news for many New Yorkers who remain vulnerable without identification documents that match their gender.

For years, Lambda Legal’s Help Desk has received calls from transgender people who have been outed to their employer because their birth certificates don’t accurately reflect their gender. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 40% of transgender people have faced harassment when presenting identity documents that did not match their gender identity/expression. In addition, 15% report being denied entry or asked to leave because of gender mismatches, and 3% report facing physical assault due to mismatched ID. Having accurate documentation is necessary to people’s lives, from employment to school to housing. These policy changes will have a real impact on people’s lives.

We will continue to work to ensure that transgender people have access to accurate identity records and documents in every jurisdiction. Though the Cuomo administration’s announcement marks progress in New York State, the City of New York issues its own birth certificates and still requires transgender people to undergo surgery in order to update their birth certificates.

We also applaud the New York State Assembly for recently passing the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) for the seventh time (link to http://www.prideagenda.org/news/2014-06-10-new-york-state-assembly-passes-gender-expression-non-discrimination-act). We will continue to work toward the passage of GENDA in the State Senate in order to bring New York up to speed with the more than one third of the country that already provides protections on the basis of gender identity and expression.

Read the press release.

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