On February 1, 2019, New Jersey joined Washington, Oregon, and California as the fourth U.S. state to allow its residents to change the gender designation on their birth certificates to reflect a gender-neutral identity. New York City has a law that allows residents to change their birth certificates accordingly as well. The New Jersey law covers transgender individuals who have undergone gender affirming surgery or simply identify as a gender different from what was assigned to them at birth. This includes non-binary individuals who may not identify strictly as male or female. The aim is to allow each individual to make a choice about their own identity, according to New Jersey Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal. The options now available to New Jersey residents are ‘male,’ ‘female,’ and a third option called ‘undesignated’ or ‘non-binary.’
On February 6, a panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—which protects employees from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin—does not protect employees from discrimination on the basis of transgender identity. In doing so, the court also affirmed its own 1979 decision that Title VII does not protect employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. That interpretation of Title VII is at odds with the present interpretation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)—the agency charged with enforcing Title VII—as well as that of several other federal circuit courts.
In an order issued today, the US Supreme Court has granted the Trump administration's request to stay orders in two cases filed in federal district courts within the 9th Circuit to block the administration's policy banning most transgender people from serving in the military from going into effect. The Court's decision permits the ban to be temporarily implemented while the cases progress through the appeals process and any Supreme Court review. The Court denied the Trump administration's request to bypass the appellate process completely, but provides a preview of how the Court will likely rule if it hears these cases on the merits.