Transgender Coloradans ask Legislature to amend birth certificates more easily

Friday, Feb. 9, 2018 1:12 PM
After passing a committee, the Colorado House will take up House Bill 1046, which would make it easier for transgender Coloradans to amend the gender on a birth certificate.

A bill that would make it easier for transgender Coloradans to amend the gender on a birth certificate cleared a Democrat-led House committee Thursday.

House Bill 1046 heads next to the House floor, where the Democratic majority is likely to pass it. Senate Republicans, who hold a one-seat majority there, will have the questions waiting.

Would it create identification problems for medical purposes? Would it make the work of law enforcement harder? Would it create an advantage in college sports? Isn’t it a record of birth, denoting the biological gender a person is born with? Rep. Pete Covarrubias, R-Adams County, wondered if a person could ask to alter the age on his birth certificate if he identified as a younger person.

The House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee passed the legislation on a party-line vote Thursday. Current law requires surgery and an appearance before judge for a ruling, The transgender people who testified Thursday called the invasive, expensive, cumbersome and unnecessary.

Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, who sponsored the bill, said it’s not changing the fact that people have the ability to change their birth certificate. It just takes out some of the hassle, expense and emotional burden.

She thanked those who testified.

“They are not criminals,” she said. “They are not out to commit fraud. They’re simply trying to live their lives.”

Rep. Stephen Humphrey, R-Severance, respectfully disagreed with the premise that changing a birth certificate is no big deal.

“I simply have a philosophical difference on it,” he said. “I see that birth certificate as a record for birth.”

Transgender Coloradans already can change their driver’s license and passport with a note from a doctor to reflect their gender identification. The proposed law would allow them the ability to do the same with a birth certificate.

The committee heard from doctors, counselors and transgender adults about the reasons for making it easier to amend the gender on a birth certificate. Confusion between the gender on a birth certificate and who the person is as an adult can cause problems with housing, employment and the even the ability to vote, they said.

The bill received support Thursday from the Episcopal Church in Colorado. Episcopalians have welcomed and supported LGBTQ members openly into their congregations since 1976.

Anthony Suggs, the advocacy and social justice coordinator Colorado diocese, said the church also supports House Bill 1046.

“It upholds human dignity for all Coloradans regardless of their gender identity,” he said.

Suggs noted the heavy psychological toll being transgender can take when parents or society rejects people, which he thinks contributes to the high suicide rate for transgender people, especially teens.

Ben Griesen, a 13-year-old born a female, told the committee she’s always considered herself a boy. She’s lucky to have a family who supports her, she said. Society? Not always.

“My birth certificate has a big, fat F on it instead of a B,” Ben told the legislators. “And that’s why my medical records are all wrong ... I don’t understand why the state cares why I have an F or a B by my name, but it’s wrong.”

One Colorado, the state’s largest LGBTQ organization, is pushing for the change.

Executive director Daniel Ramos, the bill is long overdue.

“This bill would eliminate many of the barriers that interfere in the lives of transgender Coloradans, and make it far less burdensome to have a birth certificate that truly reflects who they are by taking the courts and surgery requirement out of the process,” he said. “This bill is about protecting privacy, and I believe House members from both parties will agree and come together to pass this commonsense bill,”