Lambda Legal and ACLU File Lawsuit to Challenge Ohio’s Discriminatory Birth Certificate Policy

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March 29, 2018
From left to right: Lambda Legal fellow Kara Ingelhart, plaintiffs Basil Argento and Stacie Ray, Liam Gallagher with ACLU of Ohio

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit challenging Ohio’s refusal to correct the gender marker on birth certificates for transgender individuals, for any reason, at any time. Ohio is one of just three states, with Tennessee and Kansas, that has yet to change the extremely regressive and outdated policy.

“This policy is not only archaic and out-of-step with the rest of America but also dangerous. Forcing transgender Ohioans to go through life with inaccurate birth certificates, a basic form of identification, unnecessarily exposes them to discrimination, harassment, and violence. It also denies them their very identity,” Lambda Legal Law Fellow Kara Ingelhart said. “In fact, government officials in Ohio know this, given that they allow transgender people to change the gender on their drivers’ licenses and state identification cards.”

“Ohio’s policy deprives transgender people who were born in Ohio of a birth certificate that accurately reflects their gender identity,” said Susan Becker, General Counsel for the ACLU of Ohio. It’s past time Ohio complies with the Constitution’s promise that all people have a right to live freely and openly in society as who they are, without fear of discrimination.”

People born in Ohio are able to correct the gender marker on other legal documents such as their driver’s license, state identification, U.S. Passport, and social security information. But in refusing to allow transgender people to change their birth certificates, the state of Ohio is “forcing transgender people to ‘out’ themselves every time they need to present the document, which exposes them to a range of unfair and discriminatory treatment, from denial of employment, to verbal harassment, to physical violence,” noted Gabriel Arkles, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT and HIV Project.

“After I had to show my birth certificate to obtain a job, a colleague threatened to beat me up and I felt I needed to leave for my own safety,” said plaintiff Stacie Ray. “I deserve to have documents that reflect who I am and don’t put me in harm’s way – the same as anyone would want for themselves and their loved ones.”

“Ohio’s refusal to correct my birth certificate causes me problems not only in the U.S., but across the globe,” said Basil Argento, also a plaintiff. “After enormous difficulty – that I wouldn’t have had if my birth certificate showed my correct gender – I was finally able to obtain dual citizenship in Italy, my family’s homeland, but I am still fighting to get an Italian passport.”

The complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.