New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is hardly what you’d called “beloved”: The infamous Bridgegate politician has a 15 percent approval rating after shutting down and hanging out at a public beach during a budget dispute over July 4 weekend. However, he endeared himself to New Jersey’s transgender community last Friday by signing two bills protecting trans rights in his state.
What do the two bills do?
The first bill (Assembly Bill 4652) requires schools to let students use bathrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity or to provide “reasonable alternative arrangements” otherwise. It’s a boon to trans students considering U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent rollback of an Obama-era guidance telling schools to provide pretty much the same thing.
The law also goes several steps further by requiring the state education commissioner to create guidelines for how schools should handle trans students’ name and gender-identity changes. This way, a school’s pronoun use, student-issued ID and dress codes will all allow for trans students’ gender expression. The commissioner will also create protocols to ensure that trans students can participate in activities that match their gender identities (something Texas schools have struggled with).
Furthermore, the law permits the creation of LGBTQ student organizations and requires school counselors to learn about transgender community issues so they can better advise trans students.
The bill has been called “one of the most comprehensive measures protecting transgender student rights in the country.” New Jersey is the 11th U.S. state to issue such trans-inclusive guidelines for schools.
The second bill (Assembly Bill 4568) prohibits health insurance companies from denying coverage and services or charging higher premiums because of a person’s gender identity. It also forbids insurers from denying coverage for trans identity as a “pre-existing condition.”
These aren’t the first pro-LGBTQ bills that Christie has ever signed either. In 2013, he signed a law banning so-called “gay conversion therapy” for minors.