Modernizing birth certificate law will help trans Illinoisans

Legislation re-introduced to modernize state birth certificate law,
change will help thousands of transgender residents

February 1, 2017

CHICAGO – A proposal to update and modernize a more than half-century old law allowing people to change the gender marker on their Illinois birth certificate was filed today in the Illinois House. The measure, House Bill 1785, is sponsored by State Representative Greg Harris (13th District) and supported by organizations across the state, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, Equality Illinois, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Howard Brown Health, Lambda Legal, and the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance.

Illinois first allowed persons to change the gender marker on a birth certificate in the 1950s. Under this standard, a person can only correct the gender marker if they have undergone a surgical procedure. House Bill 1785 modernizes the law by updating the standard to clinically appropriate treatment, thereby aligning Illinois law with a growing list of states and the federal government that allow the gender on birth certificates, passports, and other identification documents to be changed without surgery. Consistent with evolving science and medicine, the bill recognizes that people who are transgender and intersex should make their own decisions about the most appropriate course of treatment for their transition.

“House Bill 1785 protects Illinoisans facing the unnecessary choice between living without a birth certificate that conforms with who they are and undergoing surgery they may not want or need,” said John Knight, LGBT Project Director of the ACLU of Illinois. “The scientific and medical community agrees that surgery is not necessary medical treatment for transgender people and shouldn’t be required to obtain an accurate birth certificate.”

The bill introduced today closely mirrors House Bill 6073 introduced last year.  That bill was approved in committee, but did not receive a vote by the full House prior to the end of the legislative session.

“This new law will conform our 50 year old laws to reflect the most current generally accepted standards in medical care,” said Rep. Harris. “Importantly, it also respects our transgender citizens while bringing our laws into line with other states and with federal law.”

“We often receive heartbreaking calls and e-mails from frustrated transgender Illinoisans who say the outdated Illinois law prevents them from obtaining an accurate birth certificate. That state law would prevent transgender Illinoisans from living equal lives is cruel and wrong,” said Brian C. Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of Equality Illinois. “By modernizing the state’s birth certificate law to meet current standards of medical care, this legislation will ensure some measure of dignity for transgender Illinoisans amidst a time of uncertainty regarding national civil rights protections for transgender Americans.”

The federal government and 13 other states plus the District of Columbia have modernized rules allowing for the change of the gender marker on a passport or birth certificate without surgery. This emerging consensus recognizes the importance of these documents, which often are the “key” to many other important documents. Moreover, when a birth certificate does not match who one is, it can lead to discrimination or harassment for a transgender person presenting inconsistent documents.

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