CONCORD — New Hampshire’s first transgender state representatives, Democrats Lisa Bunker of Exeter and Gerri Cannon of Somersworth, were in Representative’s Hall on Thursday, but not for a House session.
They were there to support House Bill 446, which would make it easier for transgender people to get a new birth certificate without having to obtain a court order.
The bill states, “If an individual requests a birth certificate reflecting a sex other than that which was assigned at birth, a new birth record shall be prepared to reflect a change in the individual’s sex upon receipt of a certification affirming the individual’s gender identity by a licensed and qualified health care provider.”
“I am a proud transgender person and I have used that mechanism to have my gender information changed on my birth certificate in Massachusetts, which allows me to do that using a form from my doctor,” Cannon told members of the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee in a public hearing moved to the larger venue.
“Here in New Hampshire, an individual can change information on their birth certificate through a court order, and that’s the process people go through, but it’s not an easy process,” she said.
She described a situation in which the mother of a transgender teen got the judge’s order she thought was necessary, only to have it rejected by a town clerk, after which the judge refused to modify his order.
“They are between a rock and hard place,” she said.
Jeanne Hruska, political director for the ACLU-NH, also urged committee members to endorse the bill.
“Any surgical requirement fundamentally misunderstands what it means to be transgender,” she said. “A transgender person does not undergo a sex change, whether by surgical or other means. Transgender people bring the outward expression of their gender into alignment with who they have always been.”
Hruska pointed out that the American Medical Association has adopted a policy urging states to eliminate any requirement that transgender people have surgery in order to amend their birth certificates.
The conservative policy group Cornerstone submitted testimony urging the committee to recommend against the bill, calling it a “threat to vital records.”
“The current effort to rewrite our laws to replace sex with gender identity does not change the government’s need for accurate information,” according to Cornerstone.
“We can show tolerance and respect for those who identify as a different gender while still maintaining factual data that helps our government identify and solve health and safety threats.”
Rep. Jess Edwards, R-Auburn, testified that there are “good public policy reasons” to have medical records changed “pursuant to a change in an individual’s gender,” but, he added, the old records should not be destroyed and the new record should not be called a birth certificate.
“The major principle that needs addressing is the concept that medical records should not be deleted for the purpose of replacement,” he said. “The bill implies that the original live birth certificate be destroyed and replaced with a new document also referred to as a birth certificate.”
“Historically, the sex at birth is still the sex at birth,” he said.