New Jersey is allowing easier change of gender marker on birth and death certificates

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has signed two landmark bills facilitating trans people’s expression of their preferred gender identity in official documents. The new laws simplify the process of selecting the gender marker on birth and death certificates.

Specifically, bill S.478 removes the requirement of the often expensive gender-affirmation surgery to change the gender marker on a person’s birth certificate. Instead, people will be required to sign a form affirming under penalty of perjury that the modification is needed to accurately reflect their gender identity.

The form should read: “I, (petitioner’s full name), hereby attest under penalty of perjury that the request for a change in gender to (female, male, or undesignated/non-binary) is to conform my legal gender to my gender identity and is not for any fraudulent purpose.”


Governor of New Jersey Phil Murphy pictured on June 14, 2018 in Oceanport, New Jersey (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for William Hill Race & Sports Bar)

The bill is known as the Babs Siperstein Law, in honor of transgender activist and politician Barbra “Babs” Siperstein, a New Jersey native who became the first transgender member of the Democratic National Committee in 2009.

Another bill, S.493, tackled instead the gender marker on death certificates, which will be required to accurately reflect the deceased’s preferred gender identity. The bill also designated a process to resolve a conflict of information regarding this matter.

A Democrat, Murphy was elected as New Jersey governor in November, making LGBT+ rights a focus of his campaign. The gender marker change simplification was one of his campaign promises—in stark contrast with other states that are instead trying to restrict trans rights. Murphy’s predecessor, the Republican Chris Christie, twice vetoed similar legislation concerning change of gender marker on birth certificates.

Murphy also signed a third bill on Tuesday, S.705, meant to establish a Transgender Equality Task force consisting of 17 members responsible for assessing obstacles hindering transgender people from accessing services such as healthcare, education, employment and the criminal justice system, and provide recommendations to lawmakers for policy changes.


People cheer and take pictures as former President Barack Obama speaks at a rally in support of Democratic candidate Phil Murphy on October 19, 2017 in Newark, New Jersey (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

““Allowing vital records to match gender identity is an important step forward that will allow transgender individuals to control the disclosure of their transgender status,” Murphy said in a statement. “And by creating a Transgender Equality Task Force, New Jersey can ensure that all residents receive the protections they deserve. New Jersey will continue to stand with our LGBTQ residents in the continued pursuit of similar rights nationwide.”

LGBT+ rights group Human Rights Campaign (HRC) welcomed the legislative change in a statement on their website. “This is an important victory that will modernise state law and remove unnecessary roadblocks that have proven invasive and expensive for far too many of New Jersey’s transgender residents,” said HRC president Chad Griffin. “We thank Governor Murphy and the bipartisan group of lawmakers who took action to help ensure all Garden Staters are treated equally.”