House committee OKs CNMI equality, gender identity bills

Posted on May 11 2022


The CNMI House of Representatives Health and Welfare Committee has approved two House bills to advance gender quality and promote the health, safety, and well-being of LGBTQ+ people in the Marianas.

One of these bills is House Bill 22-87 or the the CNMI Equality Act (Ǻktun Achá-Parehu or Alléghúl Aweeweppagh), which provides that no person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws or the enjoyment of civil rights, nor be discriminated against on account of sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. The bill expressly prohibits such discrimination in employment, and adds protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in the Commonwealth’s existing nondiscrimination laws, covering areas that include the civil service, health insurance, housing, and jury service.

The committee also gave the green light to House Bill 22-86 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 with 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 requirement of gender reassignment surgery and a court order.


House Bill 22-86 was amended by the committee to incorporate clarifying provisions requested by the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., which otherwise supported the bill. The amendments include requirements for a signed attestation under penalty of law by the individual seeking to change the gender marker on their birth certificate, and for a signature by a parent, legal guardian, or legal representative if the requesting individual is a minor under the age of 18.

The committee held public meetings on both bills and received written and oral comments in support of both bills, as well as supportive petitions signed by approximately 500 people.

Committee chair Rep. Christina M. Sablan (D-Saipan), the author of both bills, noted that the CNMI currently ranks among the lowest in the nation in terms of policies that protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination, harassment, and violence. House Bills 22-86 and 22-87 are products of meetings and discussions with LGBTQ+ advocates that began with last summer’s first legislative Pride Talks policy roundtable, hosted by the Health and Welfare Committee. LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. The plus sign (+) stands for all other gender identities.

“In the Marianas, as in many other Pacific island cultures, we have a strong tradition of respect and love for one another, and embracing gender diversity. We want our laws to reflect our values,” Sablan said. “Promoting gender equality and the wellbeing of LGBTQ people in our community was one of the top priorities of the Health and Welfare Committee this term.”

House Bills 22-86 and 22-87 will be presented to the House of Representatives at the next scheduled session on Rota on Wednesday, May 25.

The other members of the committee are vice chair Rep. Leila Staffler (D-Saipan), and Reps. B.J. Attao (Ind-Saipan), Sheila Therese Babauta (D-Saipan) and Donald Manglona (Ind-Saipan). (PR)

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