Coloradans don’t get to choose the sex listed on their birth certificates, and amending the document later in life can be a challenge, especially for transgender individuals. But LGBTQ advocates are hopeful that a new bill, introduced January 4 by Representative Daneya Esgar, that aims to ease the process will finally pass after years of dying in the formerly Republican-controlled state Senate.
A transgender individual seeking a gender change on a birth certificate has to get judicial approval indicating that they've undergone gender-reassignment surgery, which is not always covered by insurance, and officially change their name. But the Birth Certificate Modernization Act would end those requirements and require only a note from a doctor or a therapist saying that the person has undergone treatment for gender transition or has an intersex condition and that the person’s gender designation should be changed. And anyone who changes their gender would get an entirely new birth certificate instead of just an amended version. (The bill only covers Colorado transplants whose home states have similar rules.)
"This is one of the last barriers that exist for transgender folks. And Colorado is behind the times. By changing the law with what we’re proposing, we’d be in line with how the federal government handles passport identification and Social Security identification," says Senator Dominick Moreno, the bill's main sponsor in that chamber.
Legislators have introduced similar bills in the past four legislative sessions, garnering bipartisan support in the House but the cold shoulder in the Senate. Moreno says opponents were usually fundamentally at odds with the transgender community and expressed concerns that they would "flip-flop" on their gender.
"Frankly, that’s a bit of a mockery of the very real challenges that transgender people face. People don’t just wake up and decide, 'I’m going to be a woman today and a man tomorrow,'" he says.
Any time this bill came up at the State Capitol, LGBTQ advocates would bring transgender individuals to the Golden Dome to talk about their experiences. "We had young people talk about their fear of enrolling in extracurricular activities because they had to show original birth certificates that didn’t match their gender," says Daniel Ramos, executive director of One Colorado.
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With Democratic majorities in both legislative chambers and a Democratic governor, the bill's advocates are optimistic this version of the bill will pass.
"For transgender people and their families to know that it’s law and this is not a bill that people can play politics with, that’s what’s most significant," says Ramos.
Colorado's Department of Public Health and Environment is working on rules, due in early February, that would allow a third, non-binary gender classification to be added to birth certificates, according to Ramos. If those changes happen, the bill will be tweaked accordingly.
If the bill passes, it will be a second victory in recent months for LGBTQ advocates in Colorado. On November 30, following a court ruling, the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles began issuing non-binary IDs for individuals who identify as neither male nor female.