August 7, 2013 at 12:07 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Mayor signs LGBT bills in City Hall ceremony
Vincent Gray, JaParker Deoni Jones, David Grosso, Ruby Corado, Rick Rosendall, gay news, Washington Blade

Mayor Vincent Gray on Tuesday signed two pro-LGBT bills at City Hall. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

With three members of the City Council and close to two-dozen LGBT advocates standing behind him, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray on Tuesday signed the JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013 and the Marriage Officiant Amendment Act of 2013.

The birth certificate measure is considered a groundbreaking reform bill aimed at removing obstacles to the process of enabling transgender people to change their birth certificates to reflect their new gender.

“By signing the birth certificate equality amendment into law, my administration continues to meet the needs of all of our residents so that they may work, live and thrive in safe communities free from stigma and discrimination, which is a goal shared by all of us,” Gray said before signing the bill.

“We know that something such as a birth certificate not only validates the gender identity or expression of transgender individuals but it also provides them the opportunity they should have been guaranteed in the first place – especially around such issues of employment and housing,” Gray said.

Among other things, the bill repeals a provision in the current law that requires transgender individuals to undergo gender reassignment surgery as a condition for obtaining a new birth certificate, a procedure that trans advocates said was too expensive for many people to afford and medically hazardous to others.

The new bill requires the D.C. Registrar to issue a new birth certificate designating a new gender for “any individual who provides a written request and a signed statement from a licensed healthcare provider that the individual has undergone a gender transition.”

The Marriage Officiant Amendment Act expands the people authorized to perform a marriage ceremony in the city from the existing law, which limits that task to judges, licensed clergy, and court-appointed officiants. The new law, among other things, would allow the couple getting married – gay or straight – to select any adult to perform their marriage on a one-time basis as a “temporary officiant.”

The bill would also allow couples to perform their own marriage ceremony and authorizes the mayor and all members of the City Council to perform marriages.

Like all bills approved by the Council and signed by the mayor, the birth certificate and marriage officiant bills must undergo a congressional review of 30 legislative days under the city’s limited Home Rule Charter before they become law.

D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large), who wrote the birth certificate bill and his Council colleagues named the bill after transgender woman JaParker Deoni Jones, who was murdered at a city bus stop near her Northeast D.C. home in February 2012.

Catania and Gray recognized Jones’ parents, Alvin Bethea and Jaquander Jones, who attended the bill signing, and praised them for their outspoken support for the transgender community since the death of their child.

“Deoni had a family that loved her and tried to understand and did understand,” Catania said in remarks at the bill signing, which was held outside the mayor’s office in the John A. Wilson City Hall Building.

“And so this is as much a designation for the Jones family as anything,” Catania said. “They had a child taken from them. No parents should ever have to endure that. And that they could take that pain and turn it into such constructive advocacy is really a sign of remarkable people.”

Joining Catania at the ceremony were Council members Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) and David Grosso (I-At-Large). D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Homes Norton (D) also attended the event.

Gray and Catania recognized several transgender advocates attending the bill signing who they said played a lead role in lobbying for the birth certificate bill. Among them were Andy Bowen of the D.C. Trans Coalition, Lisa Mottet of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and Ruby Corado of Casa Ruby. Gray recognized Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance President Rick Rosendall and former GLAA President Bob Summersgill as among the lead advocates for the marriage officiant bill.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • The Marriage Officiant bill also allows for a "Civil Celebrant" “Civil celebrant” means a person of a secular or non-religious organization who performs marriage ceremonies."
    So a member of a non-religious or secular organization can, just like a religious minister, be authorized to perform marriages in the District, not just on a temporary basis but permanently. The here-to-fore near monopoly of religion over marriage ceremonies in the District has been broken.

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