New York drops surgery rule for changing sex on birth certificate

NEW YORK Thu Jun 5, 2014 1:41pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Transgender people born in New York state, with the exception of New York City, will no longer have to prove that they have had sex-reassignment surgery to change the sex marked on their birth certificate, Governor Andrew Cuomo's office said on Thursday.

About 100 people a year seek to change the sex on their birth certificate in New York state, according to the office of the governor, who is a Democrat. New York City has a separate records system from the rest of the state and still requires proof of surgery for such a change.

Under the policy, a transgender person will still need to provide a notarized affidavit from the doctor treating them for what the American Psychiatric Association calls gender dysphoria, previously known as gender identity disorder, in order to get their birth certificate modified.

But under the policy the doctor will no longer need to affirm that their patient has had surgery, only that they are receiving "appropriate treatment."

Transgender rights groups say many transgender people, who identify as having a different sex from their one at birth, do not need, do not want or cannot afford sex-reassignment surgery.

Being unable to change the sex marked on their identity documents can leave them vulnerable to discrimination or embarrassment, these rights groups say.

"This change brings New York in line with the current standards of medical care for gender transition - it's not 'one size fits all,'" Dru Levassuer, the transgender rights director for the advocacy group Lambda Legal, said in an interview.

"It is important to have accurate identity documents that reflect who people are in the world," he said.

Four other states - Vermont, California, Oregon and Iowa - as well as Washington, D.C., also do not require surgery and proof of surgery before changing sex designation on a birth certificate, according to Lambda Legal.

New York's new policy closely matches that of the U.S. State Department, which in 2010 dropped proof of sex-reassignment surgery for altering the sex marked on passports and consular birth certificates.

Only people who are 18 years old or older are allowed to apply to alter their birth certificate in New York state.

"Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York is reclaiming its rightful place as the progressive capital of the nation and made significant progress to advance the rights of all New Yorkers, including members of the transgender community," Alphonso David, the state's deputy secretary for civil rights, said in a statement.

"Much work remains, and this administration is committed to promoting laws and policies that are fair and just for all," David added.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Will Dunham)

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