West Virginia may halt birth record changes

Posted on 02 Mar 2006 at 11:00pm
By Lawrence Messina Associated Press

Proposed law would prohibit court-approved gender changes

CHARLESTON, W. Va. Fears that West Virginians who undergo gender-reassignment surgery might test the state’s ban on same-sex marriage prompted changes to the state’s vital records system that the House of Delegates unanimously passed Tuesday.

Among its numerous provisions, House Bill 4565 had originally allowed a court order to change a birth certificate following such surgery. But the House Government Organization Committee amended it to block such a change, even if approved by a judge.

Since birth certificates are used to obtain marriage licenses from county clerks, some committee members cited the 2000 state law that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.

“The question was, could they use a new one to get around the law,” said Delegate Ron Walters, a Republican. “That raised some eyebrows.”

With Walters as the lead sponsor, the committee amended the bill so birth certificates could only note the date a court ruled the person’s gender had changed.

“What’s on the birth certificate will remain on the birth certificate,” said Delegate Joe Talbott, a Democrat, an amendment co-sponsor. “This makes it clear that we’re not going to change the M or the F.”

Only three states Tennessee, Idaho, and Ohio refuse to provide residents with a new or amended birth certificate after gender reassingment surgery, said Shannon Price Minter, legal director of the California-based National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Minter, whose group also studies and advocates on transgender issues, called West Virginia’s legislation “very cruel and irrational.”

“That is no more defensible than passing a law that is meant to harm someone with any other medical condition,” Minter said Tuesday. “What is the harm if a transgender person who has completed sex reassignment surgery then decides to marry a person of the other gender?”

Minter said 33 states provide a new birth certificate indicating the new name and gender after such surgery. Following a model proposed by the federal government, Minter said those states then place the old certificate under seal, a practice also followed for adopted children.

Another 13 states issue an amended certificate in which the birth sex is still visible, Minter said. South Carolina sends the resident a card indicating the changes that can be attached to the original certificate.

The West Virginia Family Foundation worked behind the scenes on the bill, executive director Kevin McCoy said.

“We think all of that is part of the homosexual agenda’s attempt to get away from the recognized, traditional, male-female relationship,” McCoy said.
Minter said transsexualism is wrongly equated with homosexuality.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, March 3, 2006.

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