Federal Court Strikes Down Ohio’s Anti-Transgender Birth Certificate Policy

December 16, 2020 11:15 am

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio today struck down a discriminatory state policy that prevented transgender people born in Ohio from correcting the gender marker on their birth certificates. The decision was issued in Ray v McCloud, the lawsuit filed more than two years ago by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Ohio, and Thompson Hine LLP on behalf of four plaintiffs Stacie Ray, Basil Argento, Ashley Breda, and Jane Doe.

“This is truly a victory for the LGBT community, in every aspect,” said Stacie Ray.

“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,” said Kara Ingelhart, staff attorney at Lambda Legal. “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.”

“Today’s ruling affirms that the state must recognize the dignity and true identity of every transgender Ohioan. 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,” added Elizabeth Bonham, staff attorney for the ACLU of Ohio.

“Trans people are the experts on our own genders, lives, and needs. I’m thrilled that the court recognized that policies like Ohio’s, which misgender and endanger us, also violate the Constitution. We will keep fighting until we get rid of all discriminatory and burdensome requirements for ID changes around the country,” said Malita Picasso, Skadden Fellow, ACLU LGBT & HIV Project.

At the time of filing, Ohio was one of just three states, along with Tennessee and Kansas, that did not allow these corrections to be made. However, in June 2019, Kansas reached a consent agreement with Lambda Legal and the court ordered the state to start issuing corrected birth certificates, leaving just Ohio and Tennessee as the only two states with this harmful anti-transgender policy on the books. Per the ruling, Judge Watson writes, “All the Court is finding is that a blanket prohibition against transgender people changing their sex marker is unconstitutional.”

According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, almost one-third of transgender individuals who showed an identity document with a name or gender marker that conflicted with their perceived gender were harassed, denied benefits or services, discriminated against, or assaulted. Transgender individuals also are disproportionately targeted for hate crimes.

Litigating the case for Lambda Legal is Kara Ingelhart and Peter Renn; for the ACLU is Malita Picasso, John Knight; for the ACLU of Ohio is Freda Levenson, Susan Becker, Elizabeth Bonham, and David Carey; and from Thompson Hine LLP is pro bono co-counsel Jennifer Roach and Marilyn Eble.

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