State lawmakers on Wednesday approved two separate bills — Senate Bill 743 and House Bill 862 — that would remove the expensive roadblocks facing trans individuals born in Maryland in an effort to update their birth certificates.
The Maryland House of Delegates approved HB 862 by a 85-50 vote margin, and the state Senate easily passed SB 743 by a 31-16 margin.
A reconciled bill would require Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature to become law, but SB 743 and HB 862 passed by veto-proof margins.
“Under the decades-old standard in current Maryland law, transgender individuals must provide evidence to a judge which indicates that they have had surgery, and even then only providing an amended document,” says Jer Welter, deputy director and managing attorney for FreeState Legal Project, which championed the legislation.
“The modern, generally accepted medical standard of care recognizes that for many transgender or intersex persons, surgery is not medically appropriate or necessary,” added Welter. “This bill eliminates the arbitrary surgical requirement under current law and leaves decisions about what medical treatment someone should undergo where those decisions belong: between patients and their doctors.”
According to the Human Rights Campaign, “Even among those for whom surgery is appropriate, many cannot receive it because it is not covered by their insurance, there may be no appropriate providers, or they have a medical condition that prevents them from undergoing these medical procedures. Nationally, only 1 in 5 transgender people (21 percent) have been able to update all their identification documents and records, including birth certificates, to reflect their appropriate name and gender.”
Welter adds, “This bill is critically important to ensure that people born in Maryland who are transgender or have an intersex condition can have birth certificates that are consistent with their gender identity and their other identification documents.”
“Mismatched birth certificates are a recurrent problem for transgender and intersex Marylanders,” he says. “For instance, at the start of every new job, a new employee has to present proof of employment eligibility, typically a birth certificate, for the federal I-9 form — if the gender marker on the person’s birth certificate does not match their gender identity and their other identification documents, they can face employment discrimination or even physical danger — and, at best, a very awkward conversation with a brand-new employer.”
Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, applauded the passage of the bills, noting that while last year’s “big win” concerning non-discrimination protections based on gender identity is important, it is “issues like this that help ensure a person can live their authentic life without undue complications and difficulties.”
Evans states that the sponsors and floor leaders of this bill — state Sens. Susan Lee (D-Montgomery County) and Delores Kelley (D-Baltimore County) and state Dels. David Moon (D-Montgomery County) and Dan Morhaim (D-Baltimore County) — are all LGBT allies.
“For many years, we have relied heavily on the members of the General Assembly’s LGBT Caucus to be leaders on LGBT-related bills and they have done a incredible job and helped deliver some huge victories,” said Evans. “However, it is a measure of the Caucus’ hard work and our progress as a movement that allies are now front and center on our issues.”
“It is exciting that this bill and the in-vitro fertilization bill pushed by Equality Maryland had such high vote counts,” said state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery) who co-sponsored SB 743. “Despite the other side spending so much time to oppose the bill, it held up. We had great floor leaders. It’s great to see a growing number of legislators supporting issues that are most important to the LGBT community.”
Measures ‘medicalizes’ trans, intersex people
Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, voiced concerns with the bills.
“It’s very unfortunate that the floor debates degenerated into partisan rancor, particularly just a year after Republicans helped in crafting the comprehensive gender identity bill,” she told the Washington Blade. “But it’s also unfortunate that the bill language is a step backward in that it ‘medicalizes’ the transition process and does not reference last year’s Act and build on its definitions, the product of long years of debate and trans community organizing.”
State Sen. Ed Reilly (R-Anne Arundel County) was among those who voted against the measure.
“I think we are providing folks an extra level of consideration at the detriment of others,” he said, referring to those who are adopted and can acquire amended birth certificates but not brand new ones identifying their biological parents. “I just think this bill goes a little bit too far.”
Maryland last became the 18th state along with Puerto Rico and D.C. to enact broader antidiscrimination protections when then-Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014.
Hogan’s office did not respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment.