CHICAGO –After years of promises and inaction, three ACLU of Illinois clients soon will receive new birth certificates from the Division of Vital Records of the Illinois Department of Public Health that reflect their correct gender. The development follows an order by a Cook County Circuit Court Judge last week in a case that challenges the State’s practice of refusing to correct the gender on birth certificates of transgender individuals who have had gender confirmation surgery but not the specific forms of genital surgery demanded by the department. The ACLU of Illinois filed a lawsuit in May 2011 to allow transgender individuals who have not had gender confirmation surgery to correct the gender marker on their birth certificates.
Rather than file a response to the ACLU’s lawsuit, the State of Illinois argued that a proposed new rule to be considered by a legislative committee in September will not require genital surgery in order to receive a new, accurate birth certificate. In court last week, the Illinois Attorney General’s office assured Judge Michael Heyman that the new rule would result in no one being required to have genital surgery in order to correct their birth certificate in the future. The State sought to stay action in the ACLU lawsuit until the state legislative committee acts on the proposed new rule. The Judge suggested that the State show its good faith in living up to its oral assurances by granting new, accurate birth certificates to the three named plaintiffs in the ACLU’s case – all of whom have waited for years for these basic identity documents.Lauren Grey, Victor Williams and Nicholas Guarino all will receive new birth certificates under the order. The ACLU continues to ask that the State take specific action to ensure that all transgender individuals will be able to correct the gender marker on their birth certificate.
After a subsequent meeting in chambers, the Judge ordered the State to issue the new birth certificates. Illinois officials said they would not challenge the order.
“We are pleased for our clients,” said John Knight, Director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Project at the ACLU of Illinois. “Their new birth certificates will reflect who they are today, and avoid any potential embarrassment, harassment or possible harm.”
“At the same time,– there has been no change in the rule as yet – and even the proposed rule includes no clear assurance that the state will not continue to require transgender individuals to undergo unnecessary surgeries. The court’s ruling granting birth certificates applies only to our three clients,” added Knight. “We continue to believe that there must be a written agreement or court order – enforceable by law – preventing the state from continuing to require genital surgery before transgender individuals can obtain an accurate birth certificate.” “The state has given our clients assurance before that they would address this unconstitutional practice, only to return to it after some time passes. It is essential that we have an enforceable agreement to prevent that from happening again.”
Lawyers on the case include Harvey Grossman of the ACLU of Illinois, James D. Esseks and Knight of the ACLU LGBT Project and Margaret J. Simpson and Kyle A. Palazzolo of Jenner & Block LLP.