CNMI Equality Act, gender identity bills prefiled

Posted on Dec 03 2021

Following discussions and recommendations generated from the Commonwealth’s first legislative Pride Talks roundtable last June, Rep. Tina Sablan (D-Saipan) has prefiled two bills to advance gender equality and promote the health, safety, and well-being of LGBTQ people in the Marianas.

One of these bills is the CNMI Equality Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and aims to ensure that all people in the Marianas may enjoy the same access to basic necessities and opportunities to thrive. The bill adds protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in the Commonwealth’s nondiscrimination laws, covering areas such as employment, healthcare, housing, commerce, and jury service.

Sablan, who chairs the House Health and Welfare Committee, also prefiled legislation to update the CNMI’s vital statistics law, consistent with current medical standards of care and best practices, by easing the process for transgender individuals to match the gender markers on their birth certificates to their gender identities. The bill includes privacy protections for individuals who seek to alter the gender markers on their birth certificates, and removes the overly burdensome requirements of a surgical procedure and court order.

“One of the top priorities of the Health and Welfare Committee, and the leadership of the House, is to promote the equality, health, safety, and wellbeing of the LGBTQ members of our community,” Sablan said. “Currently, the CNMI ranks among the lowest in the nation in terms of LGBTQ protections in our laws. We set out to change that.”

“We strongly supported the passage of the CNMI’s first Hate Crimes Act (H.B. 22-18), authored by our colleague, Rep. Donald Manglona (Ind-Saipan), and passed unanimously by the House in June. We followed with Pride Talks to further the conversation about how we can make the Marianas a safer, more inclusive and loving place for everyone, especially our young people. The bills we prefiled today are a product of that ongoing dialogue, and bring us closer to our goal,” she said.

In a statement, LGBTQ advocate Tyra Lyn Sablan, who also participated in the Health and Welfare Committee’s Pride Talks in June, expressed her support for the bills. “This is a historic time not only for us in the CNMI but for our region and country. Our culture of respect and love for one another is evident with the creation of the CNMI Equality Act, and the positive impact of this legislation will be felt for generations to come,” she said. “We are thankful and fortunate to have [Rep.] Tina Sablan and the Health and Welfare Committee champion such legislation, and we are very grateful for the support from our Honorable Leaders, both in the Senate and House of Representatives.”

Cosponsors of the CNMI Equality Act include Reps. Leila Staffler (D-Saipan), Sheila Babauta (D-Saipan), Edwin Propst (D-Saipan), Richard Lizama (D-Saipan), Roy Ada (R-Saipan), and Celina Babauta (D-Saipan). Cosponsors of the Vital Records amendment include Propst, Staffler, Sheila Babauta, Celina Babauta, Lizama, Blas Jonathan Attao (R-Saipan), and Vicente Camacho (D-Saipan). Sablan said other members have expressed support for the bills and are expected to add their names as co-sponsors. To request copies of the bills and/or submit comments, contact Sablan’s odfice at (670) 664-8829 or (PR)

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