CITIZEN VOICES® Eliminate sex change requirement for birth certificate change?
Mar 22, 2019
This week, the New Hampshire House passed a bill that eases the requirements for changing the sex listed on a person’s birth certificate.
Currently in New Hampshire, it is only possible to change the sex listed on a person’s birth certificate with a court order certifying that the individual has undergone a sex change operation. A bill sponsored by Rep. Gerri Cannon, HB 446, would instead allow the sex on a birth certificate to be changed if someone presents a notarized certificate from their health care provider attesting to their gender. The bill also allows someone to designate their sex as “neither male nor female”.
How it works
Under the bill, a person wishing to change the sex on their birth certificate would need a certificate from their doctor, psychologist, nurse practitioner, social worker or mental health counselor stating that their sex is male, female, or neither and can be expected to continue to be so for the foreseeable future.
That document would be submitted to a town or city clerk, who then forwards it to the state registrar. Once a new birth certificate is issued, the old certificate remains part of the permanent record with a note indicating how and why it was updated.
Pro and con arguments
Supporters of the effort note that not all transgender people wish to undergo a risky and expensive sex change operation. They argue that allowing birth certificates to be changed will help protect transgender individuals from the harassment or violence they may risk when presenting documents that do not match their apparent gender. They also note that birth certificates are already revised for a variety of other reasons such as a legal name change or adoption.
Opponents argue the change is a threat to the integrity of vital records, which need to be accurate in the event of a health or public safety issue. Others suggested that perhaps an alternative document affirming a person’s gender identity could be issued, while the birth certificate remained unchanged. They maintain that birth certificates are intended to record a person’s sex as it is biologically determined at birth, not their gender identity.