Victory! Court Orders Idaho to Issue Accurate Birth Certificates to Transgender People

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March 6, 2018

 A U.S. District Court judge ordered Idaho state officials to allow transgender people born in Idaho to apply to correct the gender markers on their State of Idaho birth certificates by April 6, 2018. Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit last April challenging Idaho’s categorical ban on such corrections.

“The Court understood that the state’s ban against transgender people correcting their birth certificates was archaic, unjust, and discriminatory,” Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Renn said. “It only makes sense.  Essential identity documents should accurately reflect who you are, and the court recognized that the government cannot rob transgender people of this basic tool to navigate through life.  With this change, transgender Idahoans will no longer be forced to represent that they are someone they are not and jeopardize their privacy and safety.”

Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit last spring in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho on behalf of two transgender women, F.V., currently a resident of Hawai`i identified only by her initials, and Dani Martin, who lives in Idaho. The lawsuit argued that denying transgender Idahoans the ability to obtain accurate birth certificates discriminates against them and invades their privacy, liberty, and freedom from compelled speech under the U.S. Constitution.  For example, after F.V. displayed her birth certificate at a social security office, the employee referred to her as a “tranny,” and someone who overheard the comment called her a “faggot.”  Ms. Martin similarly had to argue with an Idaho DMV employee that she was a woman, and entitled to be treated as such, despite the fact that her birth certificate failed to reflect her gender identity. The Court ruled that the current birth certificate policy unconstitutionally discriminates against transgender people.

“Idaho’s policy was not only archaic and out-of-step with the rest of America but also dangerous,” said Kara Ingelhart, Lambda Legal Law Fellow.  “Early in this lawsuit, state officials recognized that their current policy was indefensible. Forcing transgender Idahoans to go through life with inaccurate birth certificates, a basic form of identification, unnecessarily exposed them to discrimination, harassment, and violence.”

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.

“I am thrilled and proud that my own state will be updating their policies, even though it required a court order to do so,” said F.V. “I’m excited to be among the first to update their birth certificates.”