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Hawaii Legislature Passes Important Bill Impacting Transgender Hawaiians

May 6, 2015
Filed under: Transgender

The legislation will ensure that transgender people are able to change their birth certificates to reflect their correct name & gender without unnecessarily expensive and invasive obstacles.

WASHINGTON – Today, the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, praised the passage by the Hawaii state legislature last night of a vital measure that will ensure transgender people are able to change their birth certificates to reflect their correct name and gender without unnecessarily expensive and invasive obstacles. Governor David Ige is expected to sign the legislation into law.

“Transgender people already face difficult obstacles in being able to live their lives authentically, and being able to update birth certificates from the government should not be one of them,” said HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse. “By voting to modernize this government function and making it more consumer friendly, concise, and professional, lawmakers have voted to help improve the lives of transgender Hawaiians.”

HRC submitted testimony in support of this legislation and mobilized HRC members and supporters in Hawaii to contact lawmakers. The National Center for Transgender Equality and Equality Hawaii were key partners in passing this important legislation.

The current statute in Hawaii is outdated and inadequate when compared to more advanced policies followed by the U.S. Department of State, the Social Security Administration, and the various states that have updated their laws in the past few years.

Current Hawaii law makes it difficult and expensive for transgender people to update their Hawaii birth certificate because it requires them to undergo surgery, and even then only providing an amended document. However, based on current medical understanding of transgender people, an individualized course of care for gender transition is recommended. Even among those for whom surgery is appropriate, many cannot receive it because such care 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%) have been able to update all their identification documents and records, including birth certificates, to reflect their appropriate name and gender.

After being signed into law, the new measure will instead allow a transgender person to produce a sworn statement from a licensed medical or mental health provider, verifying that the person’s birth certificate does not align with their gender identity and that, in their professional opinion, the registrant’s sex designation should be changed. This procedure will simplify the process of updating records and comply with the best understanding of transgender healthcare. Moreover, the new law will allow transgender individuals to receive newly issued birth certificates that do not indicate that their name or gender marker has been amended, which will help ensure their privacy.

Transgender people with incongruent identity documents frequently experience violence and discrimination. For example, the National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 40% of transgender people with incongruent documents experienced harassment. Additionally, 15% reported being asked to leave an establishment, and 3% reported being assaulted. Furthermore, identity documents are required by employers for payroll purposes, and incongruent documents can lead to a transgender employee being “outed” at work, which may result in discrimination. Incongruent documents can also cause unnecessary expense or suspicion by the government when dealing with a person who has unmatched documents.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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