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NEW JERSEY EXPANDS RIGHTS OF TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY

The LGBTQ community has been scoring civil rights victories nationwide over the past few years, including the seminal Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 135 (2015) decision that legalized gay marriage, and the repeal of the controversial HB-2 bill in North Carolina, commonly referred to as the “Bathroom Bill”, requiring all citizens to use the bathrooms designated for the gender assigned at birth. The latest victory comes from New Jersey, where Governor Phil Murphy signed into law 3 bills expanding rights for the New Jersey transgender community.

The first two bills (2018 Bill Text NJ S.B. 478 & 2018 Bill Text NJ S.B. 493) allow for gender assignment to be changed on birth certificates without proof of gender reassignment surgery.  For individuals who wish to change their gender on their birth certificate, the law now requires,

(1) a certified copy of an order from a court of competent jurisdiction which indicates that the name of the person has been changed, if the person has changed his or her name; and (2) a [medical certificate from] form provided by the State registrar and completed by the [person’s licensed [physician] health care provider] person, or the person’s guardian, which [indicates] [the sex of the person has been changed by surgical procedure] [that the person has undergone clinically appropriate treatment for the purpose of gender transition, based on contemporary medical standards, or that the person has an intersex condition.]

These new requirements recognize that some transgender people opt for hormone therapy as a means to transition as opposed to surgery. The bills also add a third, non-binary gender option on official state documents, making New Jersey just the fourth state to include such an option for those who do not conform to the traditional binary (male & female) genders. Additionally, the law allows for the person planning the funeral to change the sex denoted on the death certificate.

The third bill (2018 Bill Text NJ S.B. 705) creates a Transgender Equality Task Force comprised of 17 individuals from various state administrative agencies whose purpose is, “to ensure equality and improve the lives of transgender individuals, with particular attention to the following areas: healthcare, long term care, education, higher education, housing, employment, and criminal justice.” This bill is encouraging, as it illustrates the Murphy administration’s commitment to providing equal rights to all historically discriminated groups, even ones as small as the transgender community. Indeed, according to a study conducted by the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law in 2016, the transgender community in New Jersey is made up of about 30,100 residents which only accounts for 0.44% of the state’s total population.

Murphy emphasized the importance of these bills in a statement he made after signing them into law, “Allowing vital records to match gender identity is an important step forward that will allow transgender individuals to control the disclosure of their transgender status. And by creating a Transgender Equality Task Force, New Jersey can ensure that all residents receive the protections they deserve. New Jersey will continue to stand with our LGBTQ residents in the continued pursuit of similar rights nationwide.”

With these new laws, New Jersey continues to set the standard for the rest of the country regarding LGBTQ inclusion, as it continues to be one of the most LGBTQ friendly states in the United States. In fact, New Jersey also has one of the strongest anti-discriminatory employment laws in the country. Our New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) prevents employers and businesses from discriminating against individuals based on numerous immutable characteristics, including gender identity and sexual orientation. N.J.S.A. 10:5-1-49. This protection is not a given in many states in our country. In fact, Newsweek reports that 30 states still do not protect members of LGBT groups from discrimination in the workplace or housing.

If you believe you have been or are currently being treated differently or hostilely by your employer or a coworker because of your gender identity, call the attorneys at Mashel Law (732) 536-6161 or fill out the contact form on this page for immediate help. At Mashel Law, located in Morganville, New Jersey, we are dedicated to protecting the rights of employees.