On behalf of the Virginia Catholic Conference, the public-policy agency of the Commonwealth’s Catholic bishops and their dioceses, I write to oppose the proposed amendments to the Vital Records regulations submitted by petitioners.
Current law [12VAC5-550-320 (Change of Sex)] sets forth objective biological and legal standards – a surgery verified by the physician performing it, and a court order changing the name of the registrant and designating the sex of the registrant – before a new certificate of birth can be prepared for a person born in Virginia whose sex has been changed. The proposed amendments seek to eliminate those standards, and to replace them with subjective determinations that would be difficult to evaluate. Moreover, the proposed amendments would completely negate the important role of courts in this process.
We oppose these amendments because they conflate the biological reality of a person’s sex with subjective views of gender identity. Given our understanding that science (rooted in DNA evidence) determines a person’s sex, we also oppose the amendments because they create an even greater divide between the objective reality of how persons were created and how some may subsequently seek to define their gender.
Birth certificates are designed to be documents that record historical events, not documents to be altered by personal choice. Birth certificates are also legal documents used for many legal purposes. Changing the laws relating to this document could have untold ripple effects and unintended consequences on other documents and other areas of law. Sound laws are based on stability, not uncertainty. And certainly, court oversight of the process is essential.
Any regulations in this area must also avoid infringing on the rights of individuals and organizations whose rights to make distinctions according to one's sex at birth are already recognized by federal laws (e.g., the First Amendment and Title IX) that have a higher level of authority than Virginia regulations.
As to the choice between current law and the proposed amendments submitted by petitioners, we believe the choice is clear: The current law, though in our view based on deeply flawed understandings, at least offers objective standards, and should be retained.