LGBT community mourns the loss of activist Barbra “Babs” Siperstein

NJ trans activist Barbra “Babs” Casbar Siperstein. 2010 file photo
NJ trans activist Barbra “Babs” Casbar Siperstein. 2010 file photo

Barbra “Babs” Siperstein — namesake of NJ birth certificate law was an icon

On Feb. 3, Garden State Equality learned of the passing of transgender activist and icon Barbra “Babs” Casbar Siperstein. Barbra, a Jersey City native, passed away at the age of 76 on Sunday evening at RWJ Barnabas Health in New Brunswick. She was surrounded by family, friends, and her loving partner and companion, Dorothy.

“Babs was a towering figure in the LGBTQ community who worked tirelessly to advance the rights of transgender people over the last two decades,” said GSE Executive Director Christian Fuscarino. “She was an architect of our movement, pioneering critical civil rights legislation here in New Jersey. With Babs, we had an LGBTQ icon—among the likes of Harvey Milk, Sylvia Rivera, and Bayard Rustin—born and raised right here in the Garden State. With the Babs Siperstein Law now in effect, every transgender New Jerseyan who updates their birth certificate will be reminded of Babs and her courage. Babs’ work has touched countless lives and will continue to do so, and we will ensure her legacy is remembered for generations to come.”

Siperstein was appointed to the Democratic National Committee’s Executive Committee in 2011.

In 2009, Babs Siperstein became the first openly transgender member of the DNC, having been appointed by then-chairman Tim Kaine. Siperstein was elevated to the executive committee in 2011, where she served until October 2017.

After coming out in 2000, Siperstein was a longtime activist for LGBT equality in New Jersey. She served as an original board member for GSE. Most notably, over the course of her advocacy in New Jersey, she helped advocate for marriage equality, transgender inclusive nondiscrimination protections, and most recently the Babs Siperstein Law.

Babs Siperstein was an Army veteran, small business owner, and parent of three.

“Babs —  like no other — was instrumental in passing many of the 200+ LGBTQ civil rights laws and policies that Garden State Equality has secured in its fifteen year history,” said Thomas Prol, a longtime board member of GSE. “This is a tremendous loss for our community, and she will be sorely missed. Since the nascent days of Garden State Equality, Babs pushed us all to embrace an unmitigated pro-equality campaign that left no member of our community behind. Babs was truly unmatched and taught us all to never back down.”

Siperstein’s passing came just two days after the Babs Siperstein Law, bearing her name, went into effect. The Babs Siperstein Law streamlines the process for New Jerseyans to change the gender marker on their birth certificate. It removed the “proof of surgery” requirement; adding a third gender option (“X” for non-binary/undesignated); and removing the provider certification (e.g., letter from a therapist) and replacing it with Self Attestation.

GSE said in a  statement, “We are eternally grateful for her contributions to our organization, the state of New Jersey, and LGBTQ people across our nation.”