ACLU Sues Illinois for Not Changing Gender on Birth Records for Transsexuals

The ACLU is suing Illinois for withholding changes to birth certificates for transsexuals until they've had genital surgery.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of three transsexuals – Lauren Grey, Victor Williams and Nicholas Guarino -- who claim they were denied correct gender markers on their birth certificates because they had not undergone genital surgery.

"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," he said. "It's time that they did something to fix that."

The Illinois Public Health Department declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

But the department's policy states that people can have their gender changed on their birth records "after undergoing surgery intended to or having the effect of reflecting, enhancing, changing, or reassigning gender."

The suit claims that before that policy was enacted in 2005, the department routinely changed the gender marker on birth certificates for people who had undergone a gender confirmation procedure that didn't include genital surgery.

The policy puts transsexuals at risk of discrimination in employment, housing, access to public services and makes them vulnerable to physical or emotional harm and embarrassment if their identities are revealed, the suit contends.

"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 Grey, who has changed her gender on all of her government-issued identifications except her birth certificate. "I am who I am."

Grey said her application for Women Business Enterprise certification with the federal government was denied because her identity on her government documents did not reflect her female gender. As a result, she said she left the business and was forced to take a new position with a lower title and status.

Guarino said he has been unable to change his gender on his driver's license or other Texas identifications because of his birth certificate.

Williams said having a birth certificate that identifies him as a female thwarts his ability to seek employment as a man, gain access to other private and public services and puts him at risk of embarrassment and potential violence.