Ohio Statehouse Newsroom

ACLU sues Ohio Dept. of Health over transgender birth certificate policy

COLUMBUS (WCMH) -- The ACLU and ACLU Ohio in conjunction with Lambda Legal have filed a federal lawsuit against the Ohio Department of Health over what they call a discriminatory birth certificate policy that only applies to transgender individuals.

The plaintiffs say they have been denied the ability to change the gender marker on their birth certificate from what they were biologically born as to how they identify themselves today.

According to the ACLU, Ohio is one of only three states that still do not allow transgender individuals to make this change.

Citizens for Community Values released this statement Thursday condemning the ACLU’s lawsuit as a waste of money:

“Once again, the ACLU is wasting taxpayer money. Having a medically accurate birth certificate is essential to protecting the health, safety, and privacy rights of men, women and children.”

“With this lawsuit, the ACLU is sacrificing medical accuracy for political ideology by attempting to force the state to falsify official records. A birth certificate that doesn’t accurately reflect the biological realities of an individual becomes a meaningless, if not harmful document.”

"Make no mistake, this lawsuit isn’t about whether Ohioans can be supportive of people with gender dysphoria. It’s about whether politics trumps biology. The ACLU’s claims are based in junk science. The truth is, harmful lawsuits like this have real-life consequences for every day Ohioans. The Ohio Department of Health and Office of Vital Statistics must stand up to these bully tactics and defend Ohio’s policies.”

Liam Gallagher is a member of the TransAction Committee with the ACLU of Ohio. He says not allowing transgender individuals the ability to make the alteration on their birth certificate causes significant problems for the person in many aspects of life.

Stacie Ray is a truck driver here in Columbus and claims she was verbally threatened after co-workers found out she was transgender during an orientation meeting in which she was forced to explain why the genders on her birth certificate and driver’s license did not match.

“I was referred to as, ‘the freak’ and the female coworker said that if she ever encountered me in the women’s restroom that she’d beat me up,” said Ray.

Basil Argento says he suffered financially as a result of the inability to change the document when he was applying for Italian citizenship. Because his birth certificate and other official documents did not match gender identifications it caused months of delays and he had to pay additional costs in the thousands of dollars.

A few months ago, Argento says he sent a certified letter to the Department of Health from a court in the State of California ordering the change be made. He claims after a phone conversation he had with them before sending the letter, they still have not contacted him.

“They have stated to me on the phone that they would never correct the gender on my birth certificate under any circumstances,” said Argento.

According to Melissa Alexander of TransOhio, this situation has not always been the case in Ohio. The denial of changes to the birth certificates of transgender individuals started happening roughly 10 years ago.

Since then there have been a number of different directors in charge of the Department of Health. The current director Lance Himes is named as a defendant in the ACLU’s lawsuit.

We reached out to the Department of Health to see if they could confirm or perhaps clarify if or why these denials of gender changes on birth certificates were happening.

According to a spokesperson for the Department of Health, they are not commenting on anything related to the lawsuit.

So, while the lawsuit is pending, the Department of Health plans to keep the rest of us in the dark about what they are and are not doing, and who is responsible for those decisions.


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