Unanimous D.C. City Council introduces birth certificate and name-change modernization bill

The City Council in Washington, D.C., introduced a bill this week designed to reduce the burden associated with updating a gender marker on a D.C. birth certificate and to streamline the process of getting a legal name change. The measure was introduced with unanimous support among the 13 council members.

The “JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013,” named in memory of a transgender woman killed in D.C. in February 2012, effectively eliminates many of the bureaucratic barriers that prevent transgender people from having ID documents that accurately reflect their gender identity.

The Task Force, along with Andy Bowen from the DC Trans Coalition (DCTC), provided technical assistance on this bill and has met with many D.C. council members advocating for the bill’s provisions.

For many transgender people, updating a gender marker on a birth certificate can be a prerequisite to updating various identity documents such as a driver’s license or a school record. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 41% of transgender and gender non-conforming people live without state ID that match their gender identity.

This may be due in part to the fact that only one quarter (24%) of transgender people have been successful in updating their gender marker on their birth certificate. When many people are asked to provide an ID, whether to board a plane or to obtain a Social Security card, the thought of discrimination doesn’t cross their minds. However, many transgender people face systematic and interpersonal discrimination when their ID documents don’t accurately reflect their gender identity or expression.

The bill has been co-introduced by Council members David Catania (I-At Large), David Grosso (I-At Large), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1). In addition, the remaining council members have co-sponsored this essential piece of legislation, ensuring unanimous City Council support for updating the process for amending gender markers on birth certificates.

If passed, the bill would allow the registrar to issue a birth certificate with an individual’s updated gender marker upon receiving a statement from a licensed health care provider stating that the individual has received appropriate treatment for a gender transition. The abolition of the surgical requirement as the singular means of changing a gender marker and the elimination of a court order requirement is a significant victory for trans people who may not want to undergo or who cannot afford the invasive and expensive gender affirming surgical process, or who cannot afford the court order process.

Lisa Mottet, director of the Task Force’s Transgender Civil Rights Project, continues to provide technical assistance in drafting and advocating for the bill’s provisions. In addition, Lisa worked with Andy Bowen, social policy organizer for DCTC, to visit the City Council staff and draft memos about the importance of modernizing the process of gender marker changes. The Task Force is proud to have worked with DCTC and other community members on this tremendous leap forward for the D.C. trans community.

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