Idaho Transgender Community Celebrates Victory In Birth Certificate Ruling

A federal judge in Boise ruled this week that barring transgender people from changing the assigned gender in their birth certificates is unconstitutional.

Idaho’s transgender community won a huge legal victory this week after a federal judge in Boise stuck down the state’s policy banning people from changing the assigned gender on their birth certificates.

Idaho now has until April 6 to begin considering applications for people who wish to change their birth certificates to accurately reflect their gender identity.

The ruling, issued Monday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale, was in response to a lawsuit that two transgender women filed last year after the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) rejected their applications to change the gender on their birth certificates. Both women said that being identified as a male on their birth certificates has led to discrimination.

One of the woman, identified only by her initials F.V., said that a social security office employee called her a “tranny” after seeing her birth certificate. The other plaintiff, Dani Martin, said she had a similarly distressing experience at a local DMV.

According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, almost one in three transgender individuals who showed an ID with a name or gender that did not match their gender presentation were “verbally harassed, denied benefits or service, asked to leave, or assaulted.”

In her ruling, Dale agreed that such discrepancies “can create risks to the health and safety of transgender people,” who the judge noted already face disproportionately high levels of discrimination. As such, barring transgender individuals from changing their birth certificates to reflect their preferred gender is “unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” Dale wrote.

Though applications aren’t guaranteed to be approved, Dale said that “such applications must be reviewed and considered through a constitutionally-sound approval process.”

If an application is approved, the reissued birth certificate cannot have a record of any name changes or amendments to the assigned gender. This is to protect transgender individuals from possible discrimination.

Niki Forbing-Orr, a spokeswoman for IDHW, told the Idaho Statesman on Tuesday that the agency was reviewing the court order and “determining our next steps.”

As the Statesman noted, officials at the department had previously acknowledged that their current rules about birth certificate changes were “unfair” but that they would need a court order to change the policy.

Lambda Legal, the law firm that represented the two plaintiffs in the case, celebrated the legal victory this week.

“The Court understood that the state’s ban against transgender people correcting their birth certificates was archaic, unjust, and discriminatory,” Peter Renn, a senior attorney at the firm, said in a statement. “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,” Renn added.

F.V., one of the plaintiffs, said she was “thrilled” by the court decision.

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

Idaho had been one of only four remaining states where transgender individuals are prohibited from changing the assigned gender in their birth certificates. Kansas, Ohio, and Tennessee are the other three.

As ThinkProgress notes, however, other states require “burdensome hurdles such as proof of surgical transition” before such amendments can be made.

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