Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Monday February 15th, 2016, 12:08pm

State Bill Would Modernize Process To Change Gender On Illinois Birth Certificates

Legislation aimed at easing the process for transgender people in Illinois to change the gender marker on their birth certificate was introduced in the state House last week.

State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) is sponsoring the bill, HB 6073. It would eliminate the state's current requirement that transgender people in Illinois provide proof of transition-related surgery in order to obtain a new birth certificate matching their lived gender.

Instead, transgender and intersex people in Illinois could correct their birth certificate if they receive a declaration by a physician stating they have "undergone treatment that is clinically appropriate for that individual for the purpose of gender transition, based on contemporary medical standards, or that the individual has an intersex condition," according to the legislation, which has been referred the Rules Committee.

Equality Illinois, the LGBT rights advocacy organization, is among the bill's supporters.

"It's important that transgender and intersex individuals have a birth certificate and ID documents that reflect their authentic gender identity," said Michael Ziri, director of public policy at Equality Illinois.

Not having accurate identity documents can put transgender people at risk of embarrassment, discrimination and harassment, Ziri explained. 

"It is a barrier, and we want to make sure it gets changed to reflect those current standards," he said. 

LGBT advocates say the state's current policy on changing birth certificate gender designations should be revised, because sex-reassignment surgery is not always medically possible and it is often cost-prohibitive for transgender individuals.

"Surgery is something that is not available, necessary, or even medically advisable for every person who is transitioning," John Knight, LGBT and HIV project director at the ACLU of Illinois, said in a statement. "Our state law should recognize this reality. This proposal brings Illinois' vital records law into line with the standards used by the federal government and a growing list of states. The federal government and several states no longer require surgery, but require instead a declaration from a licensed medical or mental health professional that the individual has undergone clinically appropriate treatment."

Eleven other states and Washington, D.C. have already dropped proof-of-surgery rules for changing gender markers on birth certificates.

Additionally, the federal government does not require proof of surgery to change gender designations on passports, consular reports of birth abroad, green cards, naturalization certificates and Social Security records, Ziri noted.

"Instead, the federal government requires proof of appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition or evidence that the person is intersex," he explained.

Andy Thayer with the Chicago-based Gay Liberation Network said proposals to streamline access to accurate identity documents should go even further. He argues that gender markers should be removed altogether from such government-issued records. 

Having to "prove your gender identity through a medical notice or something is, frankly, insulting," he said. "The whole notion that government is demanding that you report to them what your gender is, is absurd and, frankly, none of their business."

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