Federal Judge Rules Ohio Anti-trans Birth Certificate Policy is Unconstitutional
A federal court on Wednesday struck down an Ohio policy that prevented transgender people from changing the gender marker on their birth certificates, clearing the way for trans residents to alter their legal documentation to reflect their gender identity.
The judge, Michael Watson, stated in his decision that Ohio had previously allowed people to change their birth certificates but the policy, which was instituted in 2016, violates the state’s constitution.
The case, Ray v. McClous, was filed more than two years ago by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Ohio and Thompson Hine on behalf of plaintiffs Stacie Ray, Basil Argento, Ashley Breda and Jane Doe. The plaintiffs are all trans Ohio residents who were denied when they attempted to change their birth certificates to match their gender identities.
Prior to Wednesday’s ruling, Ohio was one of just two states that prohibited alterations to residents’ gender markers. Tennessee is now the only state with this type of policy.
Melanie Amato, press secretary for Ohio’s Department of Public Health, said in a statement that they were reviewing the decision but did not say whether the state would challenge the court’s decision.
Watson ruled that the policy violated the 14th Amendment, which states that states must provide equal protection under the law for its citizens and cannot set “intentional and arbitrary” discriminatory policies.
“At bottom, the court finds that defendants’ proffered justifications are nothing more than thinly veiled post-hoc rationales to deflect from the discriminatory impact of the policy,” he wrote in the ruling.
According to a 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey almost a third of trans people who showed an identity document with a gender marker that contradicted their perceived gender were harassed, assaulted or discriminated against.
“[Birth certificates] 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,” Kara Ingelhart, one of the attorneys for Lambda Legal, said in a statement. “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.”