Questions surrounding New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s political judgment continue with news that he has vetoed a bill aimed at making gender transition for trans people easier. Christie’s reasoning? It would make identity fraud easier and thus poses a security threat.
While New Jersey already has in place a system for recognizing gender transition, it is quite laborious and relies on gender affirming surgeries that not all trans people need or want. The legislation, known as AB 4087 and passed by the New Jersey General Assembly in June and the New Jersey Senate in December of last year, aimed at updating the decades-old law so that trans citizens wouldn’t need to have proof of surgery prior to changing their gender markers.
In a veto issued on Monday, Governor Christie argues that the current law is sufficient and that the bill fails to provide proper safe-guards against identity fraud and therefore represents a security risk:
A birth certificate is an important legal document. In many instances, the production of a birth certificate is a prerequisite to obtaining other critical identification documents that factor into decisions concerning employment, financial services, education, and travel. Birth certificates are often required to complete myriad security-related tasks. Accordingly, proposed measures that revise the standards for the issuance of amended birth certificates may result in significant legal uncertainties and create opportunities for fraud, deception, and abuse, and should therefore be closely scrutinized and sparingly approved.
This move has aggravated trans rights groups who believe that Christie’s fears are overblown but that the burden the current system places on trans people seeking to amend their gender markers is very real.
“NCTE is extremely disappointed that Governor Christie vetoed this basic, modernization bill that would make transgender people’s lives easier by allowing them to more easily update their birth certificate to match who they are. His stated concern for fraud and abuse has no basis, given the safeguards in the bill as well as the experience that other states have had with similar laws; he clearly did not do his homework. This means all the transgender people born in New Jersey are facing ‘traffic lane closed’ signs instead of being able to live their everyday lives without unnecessary barriers put up by the government.”
Christie’s veto is especially disappointing given that the New Jersey legislature passed this legislation with strong majorities, 21-11 in the Senate and 43-27 in the Assembly, but sadly not strong enough to override a veto.
There’s another element to Christie’s veto that is decidedly darker: his vague allusions to fraud seem lifted straight from the religious conservative’s transphobic talking points. As the NCTE points out above, in no cases where laws like this have been instituted have there been instances of widespread fraud. In fact, the law is unlikely to impact the wider public in any way at all. And yet, Christie chose to use the old lie that recognizing gender transition poses a risk to the public.
This is incredibly unfortunate because, as Christie appears to recognize, an accurate birth certificate is so important. It can provide the basis for accessing a number of other vital documents and services, for instance supporting an application for a driving license, applying for a new job, and getting timely access to medical care.
As such, by returning this bill Christie has allowed yet another barrier to equality and basic civil rights for trans people to persist and has done his own beleaguered reputation no favors.
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