Laws in Arizona currently require that transgender people undergo surgery before the state will change the sex listed on their birth certificates. Now three trans youth in the state are challenging that rule in court.

On Wednesday, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and its co-counsel, Cooley LLP and Osborn Maledon, P.A., filed suit on behalf of D.T., Jane Doe, and Helen Roe, whose names aren’t disclosed because they are minors. The three youths can’t change their birth certificate to the sex that corresponds with their lived identity because of the current surgery requirement in place.

Asaf Orr, a senior staff attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said that “access to corrected identity documents is critically important to the health and well-being of transgender people.”

“The U.S. Constitution protects the right of transgender people to be who they are without interference from the government,” said Orr, who also serves as director of NCLR’s Transgender Youth Project, in a statement. “Arizona’s surgery requirement runs afoul of that fundamental constitutional principle.”

The lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, says that the plaintiffs need accurate birth certificates so that their privacy and safety can be protected. Attorneys argue that current guidelines would require the platinffs to disclose information about their trans identity that could cause significant emotional harm and place them at risk for discrimination, harassment and violence.

The suit also alleges that Arizona’s birth certificate law violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

“A birth certificate is a critical and ubiquitous identity document used in many settings to verify an individual’s identity,” the lawsuit states. “This is particularly true for children and adolescents for whom a birth certificate is often their only form of government-issued identification. School enrollment, recreational sports registrations, and camp signups, among many others, hinge on having proper identity documents. Not only are birth certificates themselves commonly used for such purposes, but they are often required for obtaining other essential identity documents.”

In addition to the lawsuit, the lawyers have also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in the case of Jane Doe, claiming she has experienced severe bullying and harassment at school because she is trans. Her school records list her as male, meaning that anyone who accesses them will know she is trans. Jane’s parents want to move her to a new school to allow her a fresh start in an environment where students and staff wouldn’t otherwise know that she is transgender, but doing so would require the family to provide a copy of her birth certificate, which currently lists her sex as male.

The motion requests a court order that would require the Arizona Department of Health Services to issue an amended birth certificate so that her parents can enroll her in a new school before January 2021, when in-person learning is scheduled to resume based on the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.

D.T.’s mother, Lizette Trujillo, says these requirements place an undue birth on children who just want the same opportunities as every other student.

“Arizona should not be allowed to require my son to undergo surgery before it recognizes him for who he is,” she said in a statement. “There are so many things he would like to do, like sign up to play recreational basketball, but he often stops himself because he is worried about how people will react when they find out he is transgender. As a result, he is missing out on formative experiences to protect his privacy, a choice no kid should ever have to make.”

According to Lambda Legal and the National Center for Transgender Equality, the requirements to correct the sex or gender designation listed on an individual’s birth certificate vary from state to state. For example, Colorado allows the document to be updated based on the self-attestation of an adult, while changes for minors require sign-off from a medical or mental health professional. States such as Louisiana will only update the gender marker on a birth certificate with the issuance of a court order that certifies a gender change.



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