Republican presidential candidate and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie laughed on Thursday about his recent veto of legislation that would have streamlined the process in his state for transgender people to change the gender marker on their birth certificates, saying the measure was “beyond the pale.”
The GOP hopeful chuckled about his actions during an interview with conservative radio host Michael Medved, who asked Christie about his veto on Monday of the legislation, S1195. Medved asked, “You have no compassion for the Caitlyn Jenners of this world?”
“Listen, for people who do not have a sex-change operation, all the bill required was somebody that who would seek a doctor’s treatment and that that doctor would verify they felt like the opposite gender,” Christie replied.
“I have to tell the truth, Michael, there are certain things that just go beyond the pale, and that’s not what I’m gonna permit the law to be in New Jersey,” Christie added. “It doesn’t make any sense to me, and that’s why I vetoed it again, and if they send it to me again, I will veto it again.”
When Medved responded with a remark about being “dangerously conservative,” Christie could be heard on the other line chuckling.
The bill, which was passed in the Democratic-majority legislature, sought to simplify the process allowing transgender people to change their birth certificates. Under current law, a transgender person in New Jersey must show evidence of gender reassignment surgery to make the change; the legislation would have eliminated the requirement.
For minors, the bill would have allowed a parent or guardian to submit an application for a change in gender marker on their child’s behalf.
As Christie noted in the interview, his veto on Monday was the second time he vetoed the legislation. In January 2014, Christie vetoed an identical bill, citing the same concerns as now and asking the legislature to make changes.
Had Christie signed the bill into law, New Jersey policy on birth certificates for transgender people would be similar to the way the Obama administration has streamlined the process to change a gender marker on federal documents, such as for Social Security services or a U.S. passport.
The cavalier attitude with which Christie talked about the pro-trans legislation in his interview contrasts with his statement on Monday explaining his veto of the bill. At the time, Christie said he rejected the measure out of concerns for out of concerns for potential fraud, deception and abuse. The governor also expressed an openness to reconsidering the measure if legislature addressed his security concerns and perceived legal uncertainties.
TJ Helmstetter, a spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, took Christie to task for his remarks during the interview and the act itself of vetoing the bill.
“What goes beyond the pale is Chris Christie standing in the way of LGBT equality for years in New Jersey, and his policies that would take America backwards,” Helmstetter said. “It’s beyond the pale that instead of finding ways to move New Jersey forward, Christie chuckles and pursues his presidential ambitions.”
Christie remains behind in the polls in his pursuit of the Republican nomination to win the White House. Before and after the first presidential debate, Christie has polled about four percent in support among Republicans.
JoDee Winterhof, the Human Rights Campaign’s senior vice president of policy and political affairs, called on Christie to apologize for his remarks.
“It was bad enough that Gov. Christie vetoed this bill,” Winterhof said. “Now he has added insult to injury by demeaning the entire transgender community. What’s really beyond the pale is that a sitting governor, much less a candidate for the presidency, would use such offensive and harmful rhetoric in 2015. Chris Christie should immediately apologize.”
A spokesperson for the governor’s office referred the Washington Blade’s request for comment on whether Christie stands by his remarks to his presidential campaign. A campaign official clarified Christie’s comments were on the nature of legislation and not the transgender community, but didn’t have anything more to offer, such as an apology from the governor.