Some of the CNMI’s most vulnerable community members got one step closer in their search for equality and acceptance last Monday when the House of Representatives unanimously passed two House bills that promote the health, safety, and well-being of LGBTQ+ people in the Marianas.
House Bill 22-87—known as the CNMI Equality Act, Ǻktun Achá-Parehu, or Alléghúl Aweeweppagh—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.
H.B. 22-86 provides an update to the CNMI’s vital statistics law, consistent with current medical standards of care and best practices, to ease the process for transgender individuals to match the gender markers on their birth certificates with their gender identities. The bill also 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.
H.B. 22-86 was amended by the committee to incorporate recommendations by the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. such as 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 passage of the CNMI Equality Act and Vital Statistics provisions demonstrate our strong tradition of respect and love for one another, and how our community embraces gender diversity. We want our laws to reflect our values,” said the bills’ author. Rep. Christina “Tina” Sablan (D-Saipan), who chairs the Health and Welfare Committee. “Gender equality and the well-being of LGBTQ+ people in our community continue to be among our [committee’s] top priorities this term.”
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.
Sablan 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. H.B. 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 committee and the House of Representatives of the 22nd Legislature. (PR)