New Jersey Governor Chris Christie continues making headlines in 2014 for all the wrong reasons.
In addition to the recent "Bridgegate," he vetoed a bill today that would have allowed transgender residents of New Jersey to receive updated birth certificates accurately reflecting their gender identity, rather than their assigned gender. The bill, known as A4097, passed in the New Jersey Senate last month with a vote of 21-11 and had been awaiting Gov. Christie's signature. In June, it passed 43-37 in the New Jersey General Assembly.
Because of Gov. Christie's veto, trans folks are only eligible for new birth certificates if they have undergone gender-confirmation surgery.
"These surgeries generally cost tens of thousands of dollars, and often are not covered by health insurance, leaving many transgender individuals either unable or unwilling to undergo this method of treatment," the Advocate reported. "Many trans individuals opt to medically transition solely through hormone replacement therapy. As New Jersey law stands currently, those individuals are not able to update their birth certificate."
Gov. Christie claimed fear that approving the bill would usher in "fraud, deception and abuse, and should therefore be closely scrutinized and sparingly approved," NJ.com reported.
The New Civil Rights Movement suggested in a recent post that the Governor's decision to veto A4097 was a calculated "attempt to divert focus from Bridgegate." If this is indeed the case, Gov. Christie underestimates the voting public's keen ability to focus on multiple issues at once. Vetoing this bill creates an unjust, unwarranted inconvenience for people on the ground who are simply trying to live their lives.
Garden State Equality's Executive Director Troy Stevenson released a statement naming the lived implications of Gov. Christie's politically-motivated decision on the lives of trans people, calling the veto:
"a vindictive move to punish the LGBT community after a year of tremendous progress. This was a simple bureaucratic change, which would have offered tremendous support to the transgender community, and have zero effect on anyone else. The governor’s security argument is disingenuous at best, as there is already a process for one to change their gender marker; this legislation would simply end an unnecessary surgical requirement. This malicious use of the veto pen is shameful and beneath the office of governor.”
Gov. Christie's veto presents an extra hurdle for New Jersey's trans community, the case is not yet closed. For the veto to be overturned, each house must reach a 2/3 majority in favor of doing so, which would require an additional 6 votes in the Senate and 13 in the General Assembly, according to Monica Roberts at TransGriot. Roberts is not optimistic, though, that these many flips are possible. She wrote, "Not likely that's going to happen on the GOP side, especially with a governor with a reputation for punishing his enemies, even if he is politically wounded right now."