ACLU challenges state criteria for transgender birth certificates

Wed. May 11, 2011 5:24 AM

Chicago, IL - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Illinois filed a lawsuit May 10 to allow transgender individuals who have not had gender-confirmation surgery to correct the gender marker on their birth certificates, according to a press release.
The organizations claim that the Division of Vital Records of the Illinois Department of Public Health "has failed to fix its practice of refusing to correct the gender on birth certificates of transgender individuals who have had gender-confirmation surgery but not the specific forms of surgery demanded by the department."

The complaint also says that current policy requires that transgender individuals have "costly and potentially dangerous surgical procedures without regard for whether a person wants or has any medical need for the surgeries."

"Illinois long ago recognized the importance for transgender people to have a birth certificate that accurately describes who they are," said John Knight, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Project at the ACLU of Illinois. "We've been telling the department for two years that its arbitrary surgery rules clash with the medical standard of care for transgender people and make it impossible for most transgender people to correct the gender on their birth certificates. We took them at their word when they said they would make an appropriate change, but all we've seen is more delay. It's time that they did something to fix that."

The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of three individuals who were denied correct gender markers on their birth certificates because they had not undergone the specific procedures required by the department.

"I've struggled for too many years to be able to live as a woman only to have a birth certificate that constantly reminds me of the gender I've worked so hard to put behind me," said plaintiff Lauren Grey. "I am who I am."

For almost five decades, Illinois had permitted individuals who have gender-confirmation surgery to change the gender marker on an original birth certificate. The Department of Vital Records, however, later began interpreting the law to provide this option only if an individual had the surgery by a physician licensed in the United States.

In addition to Grey, Victor Williams and Nicholas Guarino are also plaintiffs.

Lawyers on the case include Harvey Grossman of the ACLU of Illinois, James D. Esseks and Knight of the ACLU LGBT Project and Margaret J. Simpson and Kyle A. Palazzolo of Jenner & Block LLP.

A copy of the complaint can be seen at:

From a Press Release