Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in 2018 challenging Ohio’s refusal to allow transgender residents to correct the gender marker on their birth certificates. The lawsuit was brought by three transgender women and one transgender man who had sought unsuccessfully to change their birth certificates to reflect their identified gender. Ohio and Tennessee are the last two states to change this discriminatory and outdated policy.
In an opinion issued on December 16, 2020, a federal judge struck down the Ohio policy, clearing the way for transgender individuals in Ohio to change their birth certificates to reflect their gender identity. The court rejected the state’s arguments that they had this policy in place to maintain “accurate records” and that somehow preventing changes the gender marker on the birth certificates of transgender Ohioans would prevent criminals from “perpetrating fraud.” The court noted that prior to 2016, Ohio had allowed such changes to be made. But in 2018, the state reversed itself and put in place a policy to prevent transgender Ohioans from changing the gender marker on birth certificates even though the state allows gender changes for driver’s licenses and official state identification cards.
The court found that the current policy, “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.'” The judge concluded that, “The court finds defendants’ policy to be unconstitutional and hereby permanently enjoins defendants from enforcing their policy.”
As quoted in a Columbus Dispatch article, Kara Ingelhart, Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal noted “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.”
For the plaintiffs who brought the case, the court’s decision tears down what they described in their complaint as a barrier to the full recognition, participation and inclusion of transgender people in society. Their legal victory means the state cannot enforce this discriminatory policy which the court found “treats transgendered people differently than similarly situated Ohioans.” The state’s policy on birth certificate gender marker changes can no longer be used to subject transgender Ohioans to discrimination, privacy invasions, harassment, humiliation, and stigma.
For more information on the court’s decision see: