Arizona Death Certificate Bill Would Ensure Trans People Are Gendered Correctly

Mila Madison

Introduced by Arizona State Representative Rosanna Gabaldón, the bill currently has 15 sponsors, easily becoming one of the first transgender rights bills to make major headway among the state’s lawmakers. If passed and signed into law, HB 2290 would make it easier to list the correct gender marker on the death certificate of a transgender loved one who passes away.

According to the bill, “the person who fills out the death certificate for a transgender person “shall record [their] sex to reflect [their] gender identity.”

If the next of kin tries to record the wrong gender, another person can present documents such as a proof of name change, driver’s license, social security card, a statement from a doctor, or a passport to ensure the persons correct gender identity is recorded.

Under current Arizona law, when a person dies, their assigned sex at birth is listed on their death certificate, even if it does not match their gender identity. The only way have it changed would be for the family to produce a letter from a doctor confirming the deceased person had undergone gender confirmation surgery.

"I want to see Arizonans get the dignity and the respect that they deserve,” said Rep Gabaldon to 3TV/CBS 5. “In life as well in death."

Arizona still faces many other challenges when it comes to state issued identity documents. The state is one of 17 that requires proof of surgery for transgender people to be able to change the gender markers on their birth certificates. Arizona’s process for changing the gender marker on a driver’s license, though surgery is not required, is said to be a daunting process.

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Arli Christian, the state policy director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, said it was important to have such provisions because in many cases a transgender person’s family might not respect their gender identity, even in the person’s death.

“It is a particularly difficult and troubling issue for trans folks who pass—having to sort of be at the mercy of next of kin or family who may not support their gender transition,” Christian said. “What a bill like [HB 2290] tries to do is ensure that if an individual has made their gender identity clear—and gone through the steps of updating their other documents—then even after they’ve passed and they’re not able to state that themselves, their gender identity is still respected.”

According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 40% of respondents said their families were “neutral or not supportive” of their gender while 15% said they had either run away from home or had been kicked out of the house. Transgender people are often misgendered even in their death by family members who are not supportive, including when listing the gender on their death certificates. HB 2290 aims to protect that from happening.