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Prepared Testimony of ACLU of Colorado in Support of Birth Certificate Modernization Act

March 26, 2015

Today, the Colorado House Committee on Health, Insurance, and Environment heard testimony on HB 1265, the Birth Certificate Modernization Act, which would enable transgender individuals to more easily change their birth certificates to reflect their identified gender.  ACLU of Colorado Policy and Outreach Associate Sarah Spears testified in support of the bill. Below is her prepared testimony. For more information on the importance of HB 1265, please see the Birth Certificate Modernization Act Fact Sheet.

Thank you Madame Chair and members of the committee.

My name is Sarah Spears and I am here on behalf of the ACLU of Colorado as Policy and Outreach Associate. The ACLU is a not for profit, non-partisan organization with approximately 10,000 members statewide.

The ACLU strongly supports HB-1265, which sets medically appropriate guidelines for changing the gender designation on one’s birth certificate and helps to ensure fairness for the transgender community.

The current method for changing the gender designation on one’s birth certificate is outdated.

It is out of line with the current medical consensus that surgery is not appropriate or necessary for every transgender person.

Contrary to common misconception, many transgender people do not want surgery, and even among those for whom surgery is desired, many cannot receive it because such care is prohibitively expensive, not covered by their insurance, appropriate providers are not available, or they have a medical condition that prevents them from undergoing the medical procedure.

Colorado’s surgical requirement is unduly restrictive and prevents many transgender individuals from obtaining consistent legal identity documents. This can have a serious impact on issues related to employment, education, travel, and safety. Individuals who are unable to receive documents that match their gender identity and presentation face increased discrimination and are unfairly robbed of their privacy. Under current law, if asked to present a birth certificate, a transgender person who has undergone full transition but has not opted for surgical change, is forced to out themselves to a potential employer, school administrators, and more.

Transgender people with incongruent identity documents frequently experience violence and discrimination. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 40% of transgender people with incongruent documents experienced harassment.

Many other states and federal agencies have already changed their laws and policies to allow for the changes proposed by HB-1265. California, New York State, New York City, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, Vermont, and the District of Columbia, along with the U.S. Department of State and the Social Security Administration, have already adopted standards comparable to the proposed bill requirements to ensure that transgender individuals can obtain accurate identification without proof of surgery.

HB-1265 will bring Colorado in line with the medical community’s understanding of gender transition, it will ease unnecessary financial and social burdens faced by transgender Coloradans and will further demonstrate Colorado’s commitment to ensuring respect and fairness for the transgender community.

I urge a yes vote on House Bill 1265.

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