Ohio Becomes Second-to-Last State to Allow Transgender People to Update Their Birth Certificate

Rachel DeSantis
·3 min read

ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty

Transgender people in Ohio will soon be able to change their birth certificates to reflect a gender different than the one they were assigned at birth, leaving Tennessee as the lone state to still bar such alterations.

The Ohio Department of Health said last week that it will not appeal a December court decision requiring the agency to allow updates to birth certificates requested by transgender people, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

With the change reportedly expected to be in place by June 1, that will mean all U.S. states but Tennessee will permit such alterations.

The ACLU of Ohio is representing plaintiffs in the case, one of whom said she was physically threatened after her birth certificate, which listed her as male, outed her as transgender at work, the Enquirer reported.

Such harassment toward transgender people is not unique — 36 percent of Ohioans who responded to a National Center for Transgender Equality survey said they were "verbally harassed, denied benefits or service, asked to leave or assaulted" after showing an ID with a name or gender that did not match their gender presentation, NBC News reported.

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Though the state reportedly argued that allowing birth certificate alterations of gender would "undermine the accuracy of vital statistics or fraud prevention," U.S. District Judge Michael H. Watson dismissed the argument as a "red herring" during his ruling in December, according to NBC News.

"[The policy is] nothing more than a policy 'born of animosity toward the class of person affected' that has 'no rational relation to a legitimate government purpose,'" Watson said, according to the Enquirer.

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He also argued that the previous policy was discriminatory against transgender people, since Ohio allowed birth certificate alterations for other reasons, like adding adoptive parents.

In Tennessee, several transgender people filed suit in federal court in Nashville last week to challenge the statute that bars them from updating their birth certificates, NBC News reported.

Though the state does allow transgender residents to change their listed gender on driver's licenses and state identification cards, plaintiffs argued that that wasn't good enough.

"In times where anti-trans violence is escalating, especially against transgender women of color, I deserve to have identity documents that reflect who I am," lead plaintiff Kayla Gore said, according to NBC News.

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Meanwhile, the state is also facing criticism from lawmakers after a bill allowing students, teachers and school employees to refuse to share bathrooms and locker rooms with transgender peers (and allowing them to sue public schools over the issue) cleared the Tennessee Senate, The Tennessean reported.

"There are human beings on the other side of these votes who will have to live with the fallout," Sen. Heidi Campbell told the outlet. "And I just ask us to consider: What harm are they causing us? Why are we trying to get into people's bedrooms and doctors' offices and bathrooms and families? Is that the role of government?"