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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 6, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 14
Four Trans people sue Ohio for right to change gender markers on their birth certificates
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Four Trans people sue Ohio for right to change gender markers on their birth certificates

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Four Trans people filed suit against Ohio on March 29, claiming that the state unconstitutionally refused to change their birth certificates to match their gender identities.

Ohio is one of only three US states that will not change birth certificates. The named defendants are all Ohio state officials. Of the 47 states that allow changes to birth certificates, almost half require surgery before gender markers can be changed.

'Ohio's practice, which each Defendant enforces, violates federal constitutional guarantees, including the rights to equal protection, due process, and freedom from compelled speech,' the suit says.

'There is no government justification to support Ohio's refusal to provide transgender people with accurate birth certificates matching their gender identity.'

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and the ACLU filed in US District Court on behalf of the four plaintiffs, who say that state policy on birth certificates violates their constitutional rights.

People born in Ohio are able to correct the gender marker on other legal documents, such as their driver's license, state identification, US passport, and social security information. But in refusing to allow transgender people to change their birth certificates, the state of Ohio is 'forcing transgender people to 'out' themselves every time they need to present the document, which exposes them to a range of unfair and discriminatory treatment, from denial of employment, to verbal harassment, to physical violence,' noted Gabriel Arkles, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT and HIV Project.

'Ohio's policy deprives transgender people who were born in Ohio of a birth certificate that accurately reflects their gender identity,' said Susan Becker, general counsel for the ACLU of Ohio. 'It's past time Ohio complies with the Constitution's promise that all people have a right to live freely and openly in society as who they are, without fear of discrimination.'

'This policy is not only archaic and out-of-step with the rest of America but also dangerous. Forcing transgender Ohioans to go through life with inaccurate birth certificates, a basic form of identification, unnecessarily exposes them to discrimination, harassment, and violence. It also denies them their very identity,' Lambda Legal law fellow Kara Ingelhart said. 'In fact, government officials in Ohio know this, given that they allow transgender people to change the gender on their driver's licenses and state identification cards.'

Stacy Ray, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said she applied for a job with the Transportation Security Administration but was denied a background check because the gender on her birth certificate and driver's license didn't match.

'There are people who don't want the surgery, can't afford the surgery, so having that requirement sets an unreasonable bar,' Ray said.

'Only about half the states allow transgender individuals to change the birth marker with an administrative process, and that's what we are pushing for.'

'Ohio's policy causes me problems here in the US, as well as in Italy, my family's homeland,' said Basil Argento, also a plaintiff. 'Ohio's refusal to correct my birth certificate made it enormously difficult to obtain dual citizenship, and I am still fighting to get my Italian passport issued for the same reason.'

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