The transgender community mourned the loss of the legendary advocate just two days after the state enacted a new birth certificate law which was named after her. The "Babs’ Siperstein Law," which took effect on February 1st, adds a gender neutral “X” option to New Jersey birth certificates while also making it easier for residents to change their gender markers without “proof of surgery” or a letter from a therapist.
The birth certificate bill had previously passed the legislature, it was twice vetoed by former Gov. Chris Christie. Undeterred, Siperstein continued to fight to get the bill passed. She later helped to amend the bill to accommodate non-binary people.
Siperstein was a Jersey City native, Army veteran, small business owner and parent of three. She became the first openly transgender member of the Democratic National Committee in 2019. In 2011, Siperstein was appointed to the DNC’s Executive committee, where she served until the fall 2017. She was also super-delegate for Hillary Clinton at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy released a statement on Monday honoring her legacy:
“In the long and proud history of New Jersey’s LGBTQ community, few voices spoke with the power and passion of Babs Siperstein. She was a tremendous advocate and good friend, and was never shy to push us to open our hearts and minds, and to move our thinking ever forward. Tammy and I join all who mourn her passing, and send our thoughts to her family. However, as we do, we should all take great comfort in how far we have come in the fight for equality and dignity under the law — and the fights that have been won in no small part because of Babs’ leadership. And, in her memory, we will continue to move forward.”
Siperstein was also influential in in adding gender identity and expression to New Jersey’s nondiscrimination law in 2006. She continued to lobby for LGBTQ rights and protections until the end of her life. In December, she testified in favor of a bill requiring public schools in New Jersey teach middle and high school students about “the political, economic, and social contributions” of LGBTQ people. Governor Murphy signed the legislation last Thursday.
U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) called the Ms. Siperstein on Sunday just prior to her passing,
A year ago, Senator Booker wrote about Siperstein, “Babs is a leader, a trailblazer, and a role model for an entire generation of New Jerseyans. If you don’t know her, you probably know someone touched in some way by her tireless activism. It’s an honor to know her, to work with her, and to call her my friend. Here’s to many more years of activism to come and to a legacy that has changed the lives of so many.”
Watch a clip of at Barbra ‘Babs’ Siperstein speaking at DNC pride 2010 below: