Transgender Md.'ers May Have Option to Receive New Birth Certificate

By Grace Toohey

2015-03-27 CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene was in support of a bill that would allow certain gender changes to birth certificates without noting they were amended. The department's position on the bill is neutral. In testimony, the department said it has the ability and willingness to comply with the bill’s requirements if the legislation passes. The office of Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said he will reserve comment on specific legislation until it reaches his desk. We regret the error.

ANNAPOLIS (March 25, 2015)—Transgender and intersex Marylanders could soon have the opportunity to receive a new birth certificate listing their appropriate gender, following a bill that passed through both the state Senate and House Tuesday morning.

Under the bill, which now awaits Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene may reissue a birth certificate for an individual who has changed sex or is diagnosed with an intersex condition. A licensed health-care practitioner would have to indicate an intersex condition. A court or a health-care provider would have to notify the department that an individual’s sex has changed.

“This is one further step to making transgender Marylanders’ lives less complicated,” said Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, which works to give LGBT Marylanders and their families equal protection under the law.

Six states, New York, Vermont, Rhode Island, California, Oregon and Washington, as well as Washington, D.C., have similar laws in place, Evans said.

Under current law, transgender Marylanders must have undergone surgery to qualify for a birth certificate update, and their new certificate will be marked as amended, state Senator Susan Lee, D-Montgomery, explained at a committee hearing in early March. But under current practices, medical professionals can determine that an individual's sex designation has changed without that person undergoing surgery, said Lee, leading sponsor of the Senate’s bill.

This is also relevant in cases of intersex conditions, in which an individual has reproductive organs or external sexual characteristics that are both male and female.

Without a visible amendment to a birth certificate, individuals won’t have to worry about discrimination when completing certain forms while applying for jobs, said Delegate David Moon, D-Montgomery.

“The most important is that the bill is intended to protect the medical privacy of individuals and prevent discrimination and stigma,” said Moon, the leading sponsor for the House bill. “It allows transgender and intersex individuals who are under the supervision of a licensed health professional to get birth certificates that match their gender.”

Moon said there are good signs that Hogan, a Republican, will sign the bill, especially as Hogan’s own Department of Health and Mental Hygiene expressed their support for the bill.

But a majority of the House and Senate’s Republicans opposed the bill, with many questions about what it will really mean for the state.

“It’s something new. I don't think we took enough time to look at the unintended consequences,” said Delegate Susan Krebs, R-Carroll.

Krebs said it doesn't make sense that all other amendments to a birth certificate are marked as revised, while this one would not. She said she is worried about DNA evidence not matching a birth certificate, and because the document is no longer a certificate issued at birth.

For supporters, though, this bill is just wrapping up the loose ends to the transgender anti-discrimination bill previous Gov. Martin O’Malley signed last year.

“We want to avoid any possible discrimination,” Lee said.

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