by Chris Johnson | Washington Blade
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday equated the pursuit of LGBT rights to the pursuit of human rights as she celebrated Pride month with gay State Department employees.
Last night the US Department of State announced new guidelines for issuing passports to transgender people. Beginning today, applicants for a gender marker change on their passports will need to submit certification from a physician that they have received “appropriate clinical treatment” for gender transition. Most importantly, gender reassignment surgery is not required under the new policy.
The new rules will also apply to changing a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) for US citizens who were born outside of the United States. CRBA’s are the equivalent of a birth certificate.
For years, NCTE has been advocating with the State Department to change their rules about gender markers on passports and CRBA’s. Previously they had required proof of irreversible sex reassignment surgery before the gender marker could be changed, although there were exceptions for temporary, provisional passports to allow someone to travel for surgery.
NCTE and other advocates have stressed with the State Department that this policy unnecessarily called attention to transgender travelers whose appearance and gender marker were at odds. In some destinations, this had the potential to create an extremely dangerous situation when a traveler is outed as transgender in an unwelcoming environment or in the presence of prejudiced security personnel.
Fortunately, the new rules represent a significant advance in providing safe, humane and dignified treatment of transgender people. There are details in the guidelines about what information a physician must provide and we will communicate those to you as soon as possible. However, the State Department notes that applicants will not need to supply any additional medical documentation and that there is no SRS requirement.
“We want to extend our thanks to the Obama Administration, and particularly to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, for understanding the need for this change and then responding to make travel safer for transgender people,” commented Mara Keisling, Executive Director of NCTE. “This shows how changes in government policy directly impact people’s lives, in this case, for the better.”
In the next few days, NCTE will be issuing a definitive resource that fully explains the new guidelines and outlines the ways in which transgender people can make changes to their passports and CRBAs.
Many people-from elected officials to LGBT advocates-have worked for years to change these policies and deserve credit and thanks. Particularly important work was done by Rep. Barney Frank as well as Rep. Steve Israel in the House of Representatives; Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA), which represents LGBT employees and their families working in foreign affairs offices for the US government; all of our allied LGBT organizations who have been committed to this work, including the Center for Global Equality, The Task Force, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal and the Human Rights Campaign; and those working on medical policies, including the American Medical Association and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH).
The U.S. Department of State is pleased to use the occasion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Month to announce its new policy guidelines regarding gender change in passports and Consular Reports of Birth Abroad.
Beginning June 10, when a passport applicant presents a certification from an attending medical physician that the applicant has undergone appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition, the passport will reflect the new gender. The guidelines include detailed information about what information the certification must include. It is also possible to obtain a limited-validity passport if the physician’s statement shows the applicant is in the process of gender transition. No additional medical records are required. Sexual reassignment surgery is no longer a prerequisite for passport issuance. A Consular Report of Birth Abroad can also be amended with the new gender.
As with all passport applicants, passport issuing officers at embassies and consulates abroad and domestic passport agencies and centers will only ask appropriate questions to obtain information necessary to determine citizenship and identity.
The new policy and procedures are based on standards and recommendations of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), recognized by the American Medical Association as the authority in this field.
This June, we celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month. I join President Obama in recognizing the immeasurable contributions of the LGBT community both in the United States and around the world. In honor of LGBT Pride Month and on behalf of the State Department, I extend my appreciation to all those who work on behalf of human rights for all. At the State Department, USAID, and throughout the Administration, we are grateful for our LGBT employees in Washington and around the world. They and their families make many sacrifices to serve our nation. Their contributions are vital to our efforts to establish stability, prosperity, and peace worldwide.
The United States also recognizes the unflagging efforts and courage of advocates and organizations fighting to promote equality and justice around the world, especially in countries where doing so puts their lives and their families at risk.
Human rights are the inalienable right of every person, no matter who that person is or who that person loves. The State Department is firmly committed to supporting the right of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals to lead productive and dignified lives, free from fear and violence. We have specifically included the status of the human rights of LGBT individuals in our annual Human Rights Report in each country. We are working to protect LGBT people across the world, particularly those forced to flee their homes or countries. And the State Department will continue to counter efforts, anywhere they occur, to marginalize, criminalize, and penalize members of the LGBT community.
We have made significant progress but we still have challenging work ahead. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people face horrific violence and repression around the world. Pride marches are often met with active and armed government resistance. Laws banning sexual orientation and gender expression undermine civil society, the rule of law, and public health outreach. The persecution and violation of human rights of members of the LGBT community is not only an affront to human dignity, but it also diminishes human progress and potential. As Secretary of State, I will continue to advance a comprehensive human rights agenda that includes the elimination of violence and discrimination against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Let us recommit ourselves this year to building a future in which every child, whoever and wherever they are, has the opportunity, dignity, and freedom to fulfill his or her God-given potential.
The United States is appalled by the conviction and sentencing of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza to 14 years in jail with hard labor under Malawian law for violating Malawi Penal Code Chapter 15, Section 153 and 156, under which they had been charged with “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” and “gross indecency.” The conviction and sentencing are a significant step backward for the Government of Malawi’s human rights record. Malawi must abide by its human rights obligations.
We view the criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity and sentencing to 14 years hard labor as a deeply troubling violation of human rights. Decriminalization of homosexuality is integral to the continued protection of universal human rights in Malawi. It is also crucial to the urgent need to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS – a fight in which the United States is closely allied with the Malawian people.
We remain disturbed by harassment, persecution, and exclusion based on sexual orientation or gender identity wherever it occurs. The State Department will continue to stand against any efforts to marginalize, criminalize, and penalize members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans-gender community worldwide. We urge Malawi and all countries with similar laws to take the necessary measures to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular arrests, detentions, or executions.