Federal Judge Strikes Down Ohio’s Ban On Birth Certificate Changes For Transgender People

The U.S. District Court in Southern Ohio has sided with transgender residents who sought to overturn a state policy blocking them from changing sex markers on their birth certificates, reports The Columbus Dispatch.

Until today, Ohio had the ignominious distinction of being one of only two states that prohibited transgender people from changing their genders on their birth certificates. (Tennessee is the other.)

On March 29, 2018, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, and Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit challenging Ohio’s refusal to correct the gender marker on birth certificates for transgender people, for any reason, at any time.

The lawsuit states that the Ohio government has violated the equal protection, due process, and free speech rights of Stacie Ray, Basil Argento, Ashley Breda, and a fourth, unnamed plaintiff.

U.S. District Judge Michael H. Watson granted summary judgment Wednesday to the four transgender individuals, noting that the state had allowed such birth certificate changes in years past.

The policy, Watson wrote, “resembles the sort of discrimination-based legislation struck down under the equal protection clause… as nothing more than a policy ‘born of animosity toward the class of person affected’ that has ‘no rational relation to a legitimate government purpose.'”

He added, “The court finds defendants’ policy to be unconstitutional and hereby permanently enjoins defendants from enforcing their policy.”

Plaintiffs in the case praised the decision.

“Today’s ruling affirms that the state must recognize the dignity and true identity of every transgender Ohioan,” Elizabeth Bonham, ACLU of Ohio staff attorney, said in a prepared statement. “It is incredibly frustrating that our clients faced years of unlawful discrimination, but today we celebrate this victory as an acknowledgement to their commitment to justice.”

Kara Ingelhart, Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal, added, “Finally, transgender people from Ohio will be able to correct their birth certificates so that this necessary identity document is consistent with their gender identities. Accurate birth certificates are essential. They are foundational to our ability to access a variety of benefits such as employment and housing, and to navigate the world freely and safely, as who we truly are. Courts across the country have overwhelmingly determined these archaic and harmful laws are unconstitutional and today we are closer than ever to eradicating them once and for all.”

“People need birth certificates for many reasons, including obtaining other identity documents, verifying eligibility for employment or public benefits, and clearing background checks. Any time a transgender person born in Ohio shows a birth certificate they must share a message that contradicts who they are,” the ACLU noted. “The incorrect sex designation on their birth certificate also outs them, putting them at very real risk of discrimination and violence.”

The ACLU added: “Transgender people, unlike others born in Ohio, must try to get by without a birth certificate, or use a birth certificate that shows the wrong gender and endangers them. That’s discrimination, and it violates the constitution.”