Congratulations, Illinois! A New Law Improves Access to Accurate Birth Certificates
by Ray Duval and Arli Christian
On August 25, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed House Bill 1785, making Illinois the 15th state to modernize its birth certificate gender change procedures and remove burdensome, unnecessary, and often prohibitively expensive surgical requirements.
HB 1785 revises the Illinois Vital Records Act to allow transgender and intersex people to update their birth certificates without undergoing any surgical procedures. Going forward, anyone requesting a change to the sex designation on their birth certificate needs only to submit a declaration from a licensed health care professional affirming their transition-related treatment.
This policy change will take effect January 1, 2018. Previously, the Illinois Department of Vital Records required anyone wishing to change the gender marker on their birth certificate to present an affidavit from the physician who had performed a transition-related surgery on the petitioner.
This victory builds on a steady trend of states removing onerous and outdated barriers to updating identification documents. Access to accurate IDs is a critical quality of life issue for many in the transgender and intersex communities.
According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, more than two-thirds (68 percent) of respondents reported that none of their identification documents reflected their preferred name and gender. Nearly one-third (32 percent) of respondents who presented an ID with a name or gender that did not match their gender presentation were verbally harassed, denied benefits or service, asked to leave, or were assaulted.
Bills like HB 1785, which remove surgical requirements from gender marker update policies, allow many more trans and intersex folks the opportunity to ensure their identification documents accurately reflect who they are.
We salute our colleagues at the ACLU of Illinois and Equality Illinois for their hard work on this issue and congratulate them for a victory that will markedly and tangibly improve the lives of transgender and intersex Illinoisans and their families, loved ones, and friends.
NCTE continues to work diligently to modernize gender change policies across the country to ensure everyone has access to an accurate identification documents, and maintains the ID Document Center to provide information and resources on how to navigate this process across the country.
Ray Duval is a volunteer with NCTE.
Arli Christian is State Policy Counsel at NCTE.