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Judge clears way for transgender Ohioans to change birth certificates

Judge clears way for transgender Ohioans to change birth certificates

A federal judge has cleared the way for transgender residents of Ohio to correct the gender on their birth certificates, striking down a former state policy prohibiting such changes.

In his decision Wednesday, Judge Michael Watson pointed out the state had allowed gender changes on birth certificates prior to 2016, alleging the state's policy instituted by Ohio's Department of Health in review with then-Gov. John Kasich's (R) office violated the Constitution, according to court documents.

A spokesperson for ODH responded to the Hill Wednesday evening, saying the decision is still under review by the department.

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"This policy resembles the sort of discrimination-based legislation struck down under the equal protection clause in Romer v. Evans as nothing more than a policy 'born of animosity toward the class of person affected' that has 'no rational relation to a legitimate government purpose,' " Watson wrote in his decision.

The state had maintained that the policy intended to account for "accurate records" and alleged criminals could "use Ohio birth certificates to perpetuate fraud."

"At bottom, the court finds that defendants' proffered justifications are nothing more than thinly veiled post-hoc rationales to deflect from the discriminatory impact of the Policy," Watson wrote.

Stacie Ray, one of the four transgender Ohioans who filed suit over the policy two years ago, said in a statement to CNN Wednesday, "This is truly a victory for the LGBT community, in every aspect."

"Accurate birth certificates are essential," said Kara Ingelhart, an attorney with Lambda Legal, which was involved in the lawsuit. "They are foundational to our ability to access a variety of benefits such as employment and housing, and to navigate the world freely and safely, as who we truly are."

Lambda Legal said in a statement that Tennessee is now the only state that does not allow gender signifier changes to be made.