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Transgender birth certificates get initial Colorado House approval

March 14, 2017 Updated: March 14, 2017 at 12:27 pm
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Stephanie Mott, left, a transgender Topeka woman and activist, and Pedro Irigionegaray, right, her attorney, speak to reporters following a state health department hearing on regulatory changes that would make it more difficult to change the gender listed on a person’s birth certificate, Thursday, May 12, 2016, in Topeka, Kan. Mott predicts the changes will cause more transgender youth to attempt suicide and has told state officials, "These regulations will be written in their blood." (AP Photo/John Hanna)

A bill to make it easier for transgender Coloradans to change their birth certificates got an initial approval on a voice vote Tuesday morning, but not without a loud chorus of no's from House Republicans.

The Democratic majority has passed such legislation three years in a row only for their bills to die in the Republican-led Senate.

Transgender Birth Certificates
Stephanie Mott, left, a transgender Topeka woman and activist, and Pedro Irigionegaray, right, her attorney, speak to reporters following a state health department hearing on regulatory changes that would make it more difficult to change the gender listed on a person’s birth certificate, Thursday, May 12, 2016, in Topeka, Kan. Mott predicts the changes will cause more transgender youth to attempt suicide and has told state officials, "These regulations will be written in their blood." (AP Photo/John Hanna) 

House Bill 1122 eliminates a requirement that a person go through transition surgery or go before a judge to change the gender on his or her birth certificate.

Twelve states and Washington, D.C, allow people to make the change without going before a judge, similar to what Colorado is proposing, and 33 other states don't require surgery first.

Hugh McKean, R-Loveland, spoke against the bill on the floor. He talked about his volunteer work helping verify birth certificates for applicants to the U.S. Merchant Marines.

"In my world, the birth certificate is sacrosanct," he said. "It doesn't mean who you are today. It means who you were the day you were born.

"I am not 60. I'm not 60 because I'm not 60. I was born in 1967. I was not born in 1947. I was not born in 1957. I was born in 1967. My birth certificate says who I am on the day I was born.

"It doesn't say anything about how you felt about it."

Democrats lined up to refute McKean and support the bill. Transgender rights is a major focus this year of One Colorado, the state's largest advocacy organization of lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender people.

"We have an opportunity to remove a barrier for transgender Coloradans to make life easier for them," said Rep. Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge.

Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, sponsored the bill.

"This is not a use of alternative facts," she said. "This is people trying to live their lives."

Rep. Alec Garnett, D-Denver, called transgender birth certificates "uncorrected documents" and linked them to suicides in the transgender community, as well as harassment and discrimination.

"Furthermore, the courts have held that individuals have a constitutional right to privacy regarding their transgender identity," he said. "Colorado's current policy places a significant burden on that right."

Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, serves on the Judiciary Committee, where the bill passed on a party-line vote last week. She talked of the hours of emotional testimony from transgender Coloradans, but took note of those the committee did not hear from - public safety agencies.

"There is no risk," she said. "It is already happening in the Social Security Administration. It already happens for your passport. This would bring Colorado in line with what's already happening at the federal level."

The bill needs a recorded roll-call vote - Democrats have a 37-28 majority in the House - before bouncing to the Senate, where Republicans have an 18-17 majority. The birth certificate bill has died in a Senate committee the last two years.

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