Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Hawai’i Birth Certificate Modernization Passed State Legislature

The Hawai’i state legislature yesterday advanced HB 631, a birth certificate modernization policy putting Hawai’i on the path toward becoming the 7th state to ease access to accurate birth certificates for transgender people. The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) congratulates Hawai’i advocates, including Rebecca Copeland, Kahana Ho, Kim Coco Iwamoto, Jacce Mikulanec, Kaleo Ramos, the Life Foundation, Equality Hawai’i, the Democratic Party of Hawai’i GLBT Caucus, and many others, for their leadership on this critical victory. Hawai’i Governor David Ige is expected to sign the bill into law.

NCTE Executive Director, Mara Keisling (center) with Kathy Capua (left), Life Foundation and Sina Sison (right), Life Foundation)

(Photo: NCTE Executive Director, Mara Keisling (center) with Kathy Capua (left), Life Foundation and Sina Sison (right), Life Foundation) 

HB 631 ensures that people born in Hawai’i can update the gender marker on their birth certificate with a letter from a physician, similar to the Department of State passport gender change letter. Previously, the Hawai`i Department of Health required applicants to show proof of surgery before they could get their birth certificate updated. The improvement is essential to ensuring all transgender people born in Hawai’i have access to accurate birth certificates that reflect who they are.

Hawai’i joins 6 states and the District of Columbia which have adopted modernized birth certificate policies: California, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Access to an updated birth certificate is critical to ensure transgender people can enroll in school, get a job, and access other identity documents without discrimination. “Advocates in Hawai’i wouldn’t stand for the outdated surgery requirement any longer,” says NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling. “Across the country NCTE is working with local advocates to remove any requirements to provide proof of surgery in order to update the gender marker on identification documents.”

Rebecca Copeland, an attorney and parent of a 14-year-old transgender son and a lead advocate for the bill, says "It's the lack of recognition in society that really hurts people. When people look at [a birth certificate] and it doesn't reflect who they are it can really have devastating consequences."

Throughout the negotiations NCTE provided guidance on legal questions and strategy to ensure Hawai’i’s transgender communities got what they deserve and nothing less. As a member of the Birth Certificate Modernization Working Group, NCTE joined local and state advocacy and service organizations on their first conference call in October 2014 to develop strategy for the bill, and in January 2015, with NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling in attendance, the Working Group held the first community meeting to build support of the bill.

NCTE is proud of the Birth Certificate Modernization Working Group that made this bill successful, and applaud the Hawai’i legislature, Attorney General’s office, Department of Health, and the governor for recognizing the importance of this modernization. Mahalo to everyone for their hard work.

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