No document is more fundamental to identity than a birth certificate. We all want a birth certificate that reflects who we are, and allows each of us access to a range of other documents and services.  For transgender individuals, assuring an accurate birth certificate is even more crucial -- protecting against embarrassment, humiliation and even harassment. It's also equally painful for some to be reminded of a sex assigned them at birth that they knew was wrong at an early age and have struggled many years to put behind them.

In recent years, the ACLU of Illinois has challenged arbitrary state practices that place unnecessary obstacles in the way of transgender individuals who wish to change the gender marker on their Illinois birth certificate so that it reflects their correct gender. An earlier case (Kirk v. Arnold) challenged a requirement that the physician who performed your sex reassignment surgery had to be licensed in the United States before they could change the gender marker on their Illinois birth certificate. It also challenged a state practice of refusing to change the gender marker on transgender person's birth certificates unless the person underwent genital surgery. We were successful in getting the state to end the U.S. surgeon birth certificate requirement and were told by the state that the genital surgery rule would be changed.  But after long delays, we learned that the state was continuing its long-standing practice of requiring genital surgery.

In Grey v. Arnold, we are again challenging a state practice of requiring genital surgery before changing the gender on birth certificates.

We represent three individuals -- Lauren Grey, Victor Williams and Nicholas Guarino -- who are seeking to correct the sex designation on their Illinois birth certificates but do not want (or have a medical need for) invasive, potentially dangerous, and extremely expensive genital surgery for medical and/or other personal reasons. We've also asked the court to certify a class of other persons who have been denied gender marker changes by the Illinois Department of Public Health because of the state's genital surgery requirement, since we know there are a great many other persons who've been denied a birth certificate for the same reason as Ms. Grey, Mr. Williams, and Mr. Guarino.

In August 2012, we reached an agreement with the State making clear that particular genital surgery was no longer required to change the gender marker on an Illinois birth certificate.  That agreement was approved by the court.  However, because the State continued to require some surgery to change the marker, we have worked with the Illinois legislature to pass legislation allowing the marker to be changed without surgery. 


John Knight, Harvey Grossman, James Esseks (ACLU Nationwide)

Date filed

May 10, 2011


Circuit Court of Cook County


Michael B. Hyman



Case number

11 CH 17091