Should a birth certificate show a sex change?

READ FULL ARTICLE HERE  |  Honolulu Star Advertiser, February 17, 2015

Bill on birth certificates would ease sex switch

A lawmaker wants to let people change their legal gender without surgery

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Obtaining a new birth certificate that changes gender identification could be easier under a bill at the Legislature.

Under current law a person needs to have had a sex-change operation before the Health Department may consider issuing a new birth certificate.

House Bill 631 would allow an individual to ask the state Department of Health to issue a birth certificate changing that person’s gender designation by submitting “a statement from a licensed medical or social service provider attesting that the current birth certificate record does not align with the birth registrant’s gender identity; and that in the provider’s professional opinion the birth registrant’s gender designation should be changed accordingly.”

The House Health Committee is scheduled to vote on the bill Wednesday.

Transgender advocates describe the bill as a leap toward equity for a community that is still widely discriminated against, while opponents of the measure argue that the law change would make it too easy to change what is an official, historical and legal document. Several state agencies, meanwhile, expressed procedural concerns.

Rep. Chris Lee (D, Kai­lua-Lani­kai-Wai­manalo), t­he bill’s lead author, said, “There’s a lot of people out there for whom gender identify and self-expression are fundamental issues that have yet to be resolved. And society has yet to treat them with the respect they deserve.”

The bill would be one step toward “allowing local residents who are transgender to be able to identify themselves according to the gender that they identify with,” Lee said.

Six states and the District of Columbia have laws allowing for new birth certificates to be issued to transgenders, he said.

The existing law requiring gender reassignment surgery before the Health Department will consider issuing a new birth certificate is based on antiquated federal guidelines that were written two generations ago, said Todd Simmons, executive director of Equality Hawaii. It is no longer considered standard for a transgender individual to undergo sex-reassignment surgery, and a person might choose not to have the surgery because of the financial cost, medical risks or other factors, Simmons said.

There are an estimated 15,000 transgender individuals in Hawaii, and the majority choose not to undergo surgery, the advocates said.

Linda Hamilton Krieger, chairwoman of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, said in written testimony that allowing only those who’ve had operations to obtain new birth certificates is “a limitation that is immaterial under current legal and medical definitions of gender identity.”

Former Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona, interim president of Hawaii Family Advocates, submitted written testimony against the bill, which the group contends is too liberal in allowing who can provide the statement that a birth certificate is not in agreement with a person’s gender.

Eva Andrade, executive director of Hawaii Family Forum, said her organization is not against amending birth certificates, but contends the new documents should show that there has been a change.

“We do not see why the state would have an interest in promoting false identities and/or the recreation of an historical fact thereby creating situations that could potentially promote fraudulent representation by someone looking to dissociate from their past,” Andrade wrote.

The departments of Attorney General and Health submitted testimony raising procedural concerns. The Health Department said a person seeking a new birth certificate should have to petition the court instead of simply obtain a statement from a licensed medical or social service provider.

“A court order removes the burden for DOH staff to make a judgment on the authenticity of the proposed statement from a licensed medical or social service provider and the qualifications and credentials of such providers,” the department said.

Advocates said putting a notation of a gender change on a new birth certificate would defeat the purpose of going through the process and might even bring more unwanted attention to a person’s gender identity.