The House Human Services Committee, on April 5, passed a bill 8-6 that would allow transgender Illinoisans to more easily change the gender marker on their birth certificates. The bill now moves to the House floor.
HB 6073, introduced in February by openly gay state Rep. Greg Harris, allows a transgender individual to change the birth certificate gender marker without undergoing surgery, a requirement many individuals are unable or unwilling to carry out. The new bill allows for the change with documentation from a physician that says the person is undertaking appropriate medical care and treatment.
Illinois has not updated its statute allowing persons to change their gender marker, though it was first introduced in 1962, Harris said, adding, the new standard is generally accepted across the United States.
"It is the same standard that the federal government uses for the change of gender markers on passports," he added. "It is also the same standard that the federal government uses for the purposes of social security, and that a dozen other states have adopted for their state laws."
Three witnesses spoke in favor of the bill, including Aeryn Skorich, who said, "I'm a woman with a secret, because my birth certificate says I'm not a woman. Because of Illinois' antiquated law, I cannot get the gender-marker [changed] on my birth certificate to reflect the person that you see before you today."
She explained that having a birth certificate with a marker that does not align with her gender presentation puts her at risk of being subjected to "harassment, hate and violence."
Maya Zimmerman added, "Having an accurate birth certificate is critical. … As part of my transition process, I have contemplated surgery, and indeed I would like to have surgery. The reality is that it is something I am unable to currently afford, and I do not know if I will ever be able to afford it. My financial circumstances, however, should not be a roadblock to my being fully recognized as a woman."
Elijah James Valentin said, "Like each of you I have several identitiesfamily, friend, brother, son, grandson, Puerto Rican, graphic designerthese, and countless other labels. For purposes of this discussion, perhaps the most relevant identity is that I am male, a transgender male. I'm been living as male for nearly five years. … My fundamental document, my birth certificate, remains unchanged. Current Illinois law demands that I have surgery before I can change the gender marker on my birth certificate. I simply cannot afford the surgery, and even if cost was not a deciding factor, it is not clear that I would choose to have surgery, given all the possible complications and difficulties that can result from any surgical procedure."
Ralph Rivera, a lobbyist for the Illinois Family Institute, spoke against the bill, asking whether it would open up Illinoisans to charges of discrimination should they choose not to recognize such a change on someone's birth certificate. He was challenged by Committee Vice-Chairperson Litesa E. Wallace, who asked how such a personal matter would impact his constituents, then added, "Your religious freedom is duly protected."
Shortly before the vote, Harris said that, if passed, the law could positively impact about 49,000 Illinoisans.
A second trans-related bill, HB 4474, which requires schools to designate rest rooms and changing facilities for the exclusive use of one sex, was referred to the Human Services Facilities Subcommittee. Their next committee meeting has not been scheduled as of press time. That bill is opposed by LGBTQs and their allies.