A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to force the state of Tennessee to allow transgender plaintiffs to change their birth certificates to match their gender identity, the Associated Press reported.
U.S. District Judge Eli Richardson wrote that the word "sex," when it comes to birth certificates, means "external genitalia at birth." The judge also said that a birth certificate does not become inaccurate if the person's gender identity later in life is a mismatch.
"The instant case is not grist for a broad-based discussion about transgenderism or the status and rights of transgender persons in Tennessee or the United States," wrote United States District Judge Eli Richardson in a memorandum opinion.
Judge Richardson noted that the case involved a "discrete legal dispute over the constitutionality of a specific alleged policy of the State of Tennessee (based on a longstanding Tennessee statute) concerning birth certificates in particular."
"Nothing stops Plaintiffs from announcing their gender to the world, irrespective of their birth certificates’ designation of sex (based on birth appearance)."
The lawsuit, filed in 2019, challenged Tennessee's law that generally prohibits the birth certificate changes the plaintiffs sought, the AP reported. The law had been in place since 1977.
The lawsuit, brought by Lamda Legal, said the policy could be dangerous. In their view, a transgender person could be subjected to harassment or violence if the person presented a birth certificate that did not match with their gender identity.
The plaintiffs' argument was that Tennessee's policy violated the equal protection and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution. They argued that First Amendment issues were also at stake because the law has the effect of "forcing transgender people through their birth certificates to identify with a sex that is not who they are."
"At a time where we are under attack, I am devastated to see that after years waiting for this decision, the court has refused to allow us the opportunity to prove our case. Tennessee’s discriminatory birth certificate policy has not only gravely impacted my life, but also presents a roadblock for all transgender Tennesseans. We deserve recognition and dignity from the government just as much as every other Tennessean," said Memphis-based plaintiff Kayla Gore, 37, in a statement through the firm representing the group.
"It’s hard to exist as a transgender person in Tennessee at this moment. To have the court join state officials to willfully not see us for who we are adds to that burden. All my life I’ve been carrying an inaccurate birth certificate, complicating my life and making me feel not seen by my government. Today, my heart is saddened as the court has refused to address the harms imposed by Tennessee’s policy, but I will continue to fight against the discrimination that continues to be perpetuated by the state of Tennessee," plaintiff Jaime Combs, 54, said in the statement.
"We are very disappointed in yesterday’s decision, which fails to acknowledge the incontrovertible truth that birth certificates are the quintessential identity document. Tennessee’s discriminatory birth certificate policy forces transgender Tennesseans to out themselves and to use an identity document inconsistent with who they are. This is wrong," said Lamda Legal Counsel Omar Gonzalez-Pagan in a statement Friday.
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