By Leslie Lake for the Norwalk Hour
NORWALK -- After overwhelming passage in the State Senate and the House, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signed into law a bill that updates the state's birth certificate procedures to enable transgender people to change their birth certificates to the appropriate gender without having to undergo surgical procedures.
"This is a critically important advance for Connecticut's transgender citizens," said Jennifer Levi, Director of the Transgender Rights Project for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD). "When transgender people cannot obtain identity documents that match their gender identity, they become vulnerable to discrimination, harassment, and violence."
Executive director of Norwalk's Triangle Community Center (TCC) Anthony Crisci, is happy to see that transgender people are moving toward legal equality in the state.
"Connecticut is among a handful of states in the country that protects LGBT (Lesbian,Gay,Bisexual,Transgender) people equally," Crisci said. "We're very happy about this."
The new law eliminates a Department of Health requirement that people show proof of surgery before changing the gender marker on their birth certificate. That condition denied recognition to numerous people including those who did not have medical need of or could not afford such a procedure, according to a press release from GLAD.
H.B. No. 7006 passed the Senate by a vote of 32-3 and the House by a vote of 126-18.
Connecticut becomes the eighth state in the country which will allow sex changes on birth certificates without gender reassignment surgery, with Malloy's June 24, 2015 signing of the bill.
"Because of discrimination there is a higher rate of unemployment and poverty among transgender people who may not be able to afford surgical procedures," Crisci said. "And there are some transgender people who don't want surgery."
Crisci noted that while transgender people make up one percent of the population, TCC's case managers see a higher percentage of those requiring assistance with issues of health, housing, and employment.
"Our case management that started in January had 150 people seeking services," Crisci said. "Forty percent of those people were related to transgender, the fact that 40 percent are seeking services shows a disproportionate need."
The new process allows a range of healthcare professionals to provide letters in support of the request to correct a person's birth certificate. The criteria for correction is "surgical, hormonal, or other treatment appropriate to the individual for the purpose of gender transition."
"From a legal perspective it's important that transgender people will be able to change their driver's licenses, for example, and not have to explain why there are discrepancies between their gender expression or appearance which can lead to a lot of unnecessary complications and further stigma," Crisci said.
The law goes into effect on October 1, 2015 and the local town clerk's office will be prepared for those who would like to amend their birth certificates.
"We have some meetings coming up to discuss the process and we will be ready by the October 1 date," said Norwalk Town Clerk Rick McQuaid.
GLAD worked on the legislation in a coalition with the ACLU of Connecticut, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, True Colors, Connecticut TransAdvocacy Coalition, Connecticut Women's Education and Legal Fund, and others.
"Connecticut's statutes on transgender rights had become terribly outdated. Signing this bill into law goes a long way toward restoring our state as a national leader in the recognition and affirmation of gender identity and expression in its laws," said Stephen Glassman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Connecticut.
GLAD has published a toolkit to assist transgender people who wish to change the gender marker on their Connecticut birth certificate. The toolkit is available athttp://www.glad.org/rights/toolkit/connecticut-birth-certificate-tool-kit