US: Trans Rights on the March

The Trump administration has passed a slew of anti-trans policies, rolling back protections in educationhealth carehousing, and employment while attempting to ban trans military service. But even as the president tries to reverse LGBTQ equality, much of the country is moving in the opposite direction, expanding trans rights in defiance of federal hostility. Just this past week, multiple states pushed their laws forward to better accommodate transgender rights. In fact, this might have been the best week for the rights of gender minorities since Trump took office.

Start with New Jersey. On Tuesday, the state Senate passed a bill making it much easier for transgender people to change their birth certificates. Under current law, trans people born in the state could not alter the gender on their birth certificate without proof that they had undergone gender confirmation surgery. But not all trans people feel that surgery is a necessary component of medical transition. The new bill allows trans individuals to correct their birth certificate by simply declaring, under penalty of perjury, that they are switching the listed sex in order for it to conform “with that person’s gender identity.” It also lets gender nonconforming people change their sex to “undesignated/non-binary.” A separate bill that secured Senate approval on Tuesday requires death certificates to match the individual’s gender identity.

The Legislature passed similar vital records measures twice under Republican Gov. Chris Christie, but he vetoed the legislation both times. Tuesday’s birth certificate bill passed by a 30–7 margin; the death certificate bill passed 32­–4. Both are widely expected to sail through the General Assembly. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy supported these policiesduring his campaign and should sign the bills once they reach his desk.

On the same day, the state Senate also passed a bill establishing a task force to study and curb anti-trans discrimination in health care, education, housing, employment, and public safety. The measure passed unanimously and is on track for similarly swift approval from the General Assembly and governor.

Among states, New Jersey is already ahead of the pack when it comes to trans rights. Once these proposals become law, it may vie with California for the title of trans-friendliest state. Like New Jersey, California already bars LGBTQ discrimination and conversion “therapy.” But it also prohibitsthe gay and trans “panic defense,” which allows murder suspects to defend their actions in court by claiming that their victims’ identity triggered their violent acts. Illinois is the only other state to ban this defense, though New York may soon forbid it as well.

New Jersey, California, Illinois, and New York, meanwhile, all prohibit “conversion therapy” for minors, along with six other states and the District of Columbia. Two more states may soon join that list: New Hampshire and Washington. In February, the New Hampshire House of Representatives passed a bill barring licensed therapists from trying to counsel minors into changing their sexual orientation or gender identity—a damaging and discredited practice

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