For the second time, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has vetoed legislation aimed at streamlining the process for transgender people to change the gender marker on their birth certificates.
Andrea Bowen, executive director of the New Jersey LGBT group Garden State Equality, said Christie’s veto on Monday of the legislation, S1195, is “nonsensical, cruel, and — if you care at all about good government processes — illogical.”
“Gov. Christie’s veto means that transgender people will have to undergo unnecessary surgery just to change the M or F on their birth certificate,” Bowen said. “That’s not only absurd and gruesome, but it’s out of line with what the federal government does for U.S. Passports, Social Security records, and what New Jersey already does for its driver’s licenses.”
The bill, which was passed in the Democratic-majority legislature, sought to simplify the process allowing transgender people to change their birth certificates similar to how they change their federal IDs. 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.
Christie, who announced his veto in the same day he announced action on a slew of legislation, said in a message to the legislature dated Aug. 10 he vetoed the legislation out of concerns for potential fraud, deception and abuse.
“Birth certificates unlock access to many of our nation’s and state’s critical and protected benefits such as passports, driver’s licenses, and social services, as well as other important security-dependent allowances,” Christie said. “Accordingly, I remain committed to the principle that efforts to significantly alter state law concerning the issuance of vital records that have the potential to create legal uncertainties should be closely scrutinized and sparingly approved.”
According to Christie, New Jersey already has an expedited administrative route to make such changes, unlike other states that require potentially prolonged court intervention to institute a change in gender marker. Christie also calls on the legislature “to alleviate the security concerns and legal uncertainties” in the bill, which he says may warrant his reconsideration.
Assembly member Valerie Vainieri (D-Trenton) said in a statement Christie’s veto of the legislation “ignores all the nuances and complexities of gender reassignment.”
“Simply put, every individual does not necessarily undergo sex reassignment surgery when transitioning genders,” Christie said. “Yet, Gov. Christie’s veto ignores all the other processes they’ve undergone and makes sex reassignment their only option when it comes to changing their birth certificate to recognize their inherent self.
In January 2014, Christie vetoed an identical bill, citing the same concerns as now and asking the legislature to make changes.
Arli Christian, state policy counsel for the National Center for Transgender Equality, criticized Christie for his veto, saying the governor has yet again “elected to allow his state’s birth certificate laws to deteriorate.”
“His veto on this bill keeps in place outdated and burdensome requirements that make it incredibly difficult for transgender people to get birth certificates that match who they are,” Christian said. “Birth Certificates play an enormous role in transgender people’s ability to live their life as the person that they are. And Gov. Christie has — for a second time — vetoed legislation denying that for transgender New Jerseyans.”
Christie vetoed the legislation days after he participated in the first Republican presidential debate and had a heated exchange with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) over government collection of phone records under the Patriot Act as well as an exchange with Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee over entitlement reform.
It’s possible for the legislature to override governor’s veto provided at least two-thirds of lawmakers — 54 in the Assembly, 27 in the Senate — vote to affirm the measure. That’s not too much higher than the 51 “yes” votes the bill received on the floor of the Assembly. The 30 “yes” votes the bill received on the floor of the Senate already surpasses that number.
Speaking with the Blade, Bowen said she’s “optimistic” about the chances for success of an override vote, which she said may take place during the lame duck after the New Jersey election this year.
“We had strong Republican showing with this bill and I look forward to reaching out to a bipartisan coalition to see if we can get the override done,” Bowen said.
Although the bill is the same as before, Bowen said supporters thought the result might be different with Christie because they “explained it better” throughout the legislative process.
After all, the 51-23 vote the bill received in the Assembly and the 30-6 vote it received in the Senate this year was higher than the 43-27 vote the bill received in the Assembly and the 21-11 vote it received in Senate in 2013.
Bowen also said Christie’s concern about the legislation leading to fraud “doesn’t make any sense” given the process for changing gender markers on federal IDs.
“If you’re worried about fraud, then you want to have consistency in the law…so that people can’t exploit different processes,” Bowen said. “Unfortunately, by vetoing this bill, Chris Christie has forced there to be inconsistency in the law because now we’re not following the same process that the Passport Office uses, we’re not following the same process that the Social Security Administration uses, we’re not using the same process for driver’s licenses that the DMV uses, so I think the governor [created inconsistency in the law].”