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New law allows Illinoisans to change sex on birth certificate without doctor’s affirmation

Graphic by Nika Schoonover via datawrapper.de
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Capitol News Illinois

Illinois becomes 12th state, 1st in Midwest, to allow self-attestation

Illinoisans seeking to legally change the gender on their birth certificate will have an easier time under a new law signed by Gov. JB Pritzker last week.

“Here in Illinois, we recognize that gender transition is a personal journey that doesn’t always follow a prescriptive medical path, but still deserves to be honored legally,” Pritzker said in a statement. “In a time of increasing violence and hateful rhetoric against the trans, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming community, it is more important than ever to reaffirm our state’s commitment to recognizing the rights and dignity of LGBTQ+ Illinoisans.”

Under House Bill 9, which will take effect July 1, individuals will no longer need a medical professional to affirm they have undergone gender reassignment surgery or other clinical treatment in order to change their gender on their birth certificate. Once the change takes effect, they simply have to submit a statement expressing their intention to change their gender classification.

Mike Ziri, director of public policy at Equality Illinois, said in an interview that the policy change was important because individuals often do not have access to a provider and because providers sometimes refuse to consent to providing such a statement.

“The old requirement, it was a barrier to equality,” Ziri, whose organization worked on the bill with other advocacy groups, said. “Someone may not be able to afford a visit to a doctor, or there may not be an affirming provider.”

By removing the need of a health care professional to reaffirm an individual’s gender change status, the law makes it easier for a person’s documents to be consistent, according to a statement from state Sen. Laura Fine, D-Glenview, a lead sponsor on the bill.

“This legislation will now make it easier for trans and nonbinary people to live as their authentic selves and ensure consistency on legal documents,” Fine said in the statement.

An updated birth certificate can make it easier to obtain a new driver’s license reflecting the person’s gender identity, said Brigid Leahy, vice president of public policy at Planned Parenthood Illinois Action.

“If your birth certificate doesn’t match other documents that you have, it can be complicated and confusing for everyday life and doing things like applying for certain things where you need documentation,” Leahy said. “And if there are inconsistencies in that documentation, it can make it harder for you to complete the process.”

The measure passed with only Democratic support in both chambers of the General Assembly.

The law also waives the costs associated with acquiring a new birth certificate for previously incarcerated individuals, homeless people, youths under care of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, individuals under 27 who were previously in care and individuals living in domestic violence shelters.

“Access to your birth certificate will become a less onerous process for many Illinoisans, removing barriers for people who already face so many,” Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, D-Glenview, another lead sponsor on the bill, said in a statement.

A new birth certificate request usually costs $15, plus $2 for each additional copy.

The law is the latest passed in Illinois that expands protections for transgender individuals, following protections for gender-affirming care and a measure allowing people previously convicted of felonies to change their name “due to marriage, religious beliefs, status as a victim of trafficking or gender-related identity.”

With the new law, Illinois joins 11 other states in allowing self-attestation of gender on birth certificates, according to Equality Illinois.

“We’re really excited that Illinois is moving on this issue on the topic of birth certificates into those ranks of those affirming states,” Ziri said.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide, as well as hundreds of radio and TV stations. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Nika Schoonover is a reporter at Capitol News Illinois, based in Springfield.