A 2018 lawsuit filed by four Ohio natives -- Stacie Ray, Basil Argento, and Ashley Breda -- got an early courty victory last Thursday after a judge ruled that the lawsuit, which would allow people to change the gender on their birth certificates, was allowed to precede. The four plaintiffs are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and Lambda Legal.
Previously the Ohio Attorney General's Office had filed a motion to dismiss the case and continue enabling the anti-trans policy. U.S. District Judge Michael H. Watson, an appointee of George W. Bush, denied the motion, saying that "courts across the United States have explicitly acknowledged the general hostility and violence affecting the transgender population for at least the last decade." He claimed the plaintiffs adequately alleged that the state of Ohio's refusal to allow changes to birth certificates to reflect their gender identity "implicates a release of personal information... that could lead to bodily harm."
"This ruling paves the way to complete victory," said Freda Levenson, legal director for the ACLU of Ohio, in a statement. "Now we will continue to fight until we completely remove this barrier. In the end, transgender people will have access to the basic documents they need to live as their true and authentic selves."
At the time in which the lawsuit was filed, Ohio was one of three states -- along with Tennessee and Kansas -- that didn't allow transgender people to update the gender markers on their birth certificates. Last June, another Lambda Legal lawsuit claimed victory in Kansas, which began allowing gender changes after entering into a federal consent decree. Tennessee's policy remains unchanged.
"Today we took a huge leap forward toward the goal of ensuring that transgender people born in Ohio will have access to an accurate birth certificate that matches their identity, which is essential to their safety, privacy, and well-being," said Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Kara Ingelhart. "What we are arguing is simple: the identities and dignity of transgender Ohioans must be recognized by the state."
"Ohio is out-of-step with the rest of the United States in clinging to this archaic and dangerous refusal to provide transgender Ohioans with accurate documentation which serves no other reason than discrimination," Ingelhart continued.
In a press release, Ray said she is "looking forward" to having the chance to challenge Ohio's discriminatory policy in court.
"It is frustrating that it will take a lawsuit to have my state recognize me for who I really am," she said. "But I'm confident that, in the end, our fundamental right to live as our true and authentic selves will prevail and that no one else in Ohio will have to endure the horrific experiences I and my fellow plaintiffs have endured moving forward."
A report from the National Center for Trans Equality found that not having a corrected birth certificate which matches their lived identity can be extremely harmful for transgender people. One-third of respondents to its 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey reported being harassed, discriminated against, or assaulted when showing an identity document with a name or gender marker that conflicted with their perceived gender.
Transgender individuals also are disproportionately targeted for hate crimes.
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