Transgender woman wins birth certificate ruling
Posted on April 14, 2009
Filed Under Uncategorized
A 67-year-old Los Angeles native, now living in Kansas, won a state appeals court ruling in San Francisco on Friday that makes it easier for California-born transgender people to change their birth certificate, a document that can be critical in a security-conscious age.
Gigi Marie Somers was born male but has lived most of her life as a woman, and underwent sex-change surgery in 2005. She got a driver’s license with her new name and gender and sought a new birth certificate, but learned that Kansas was one of the few states that will not change a resident’s sex designation on a birth certificate.
Somers then turned to a California court, only to discover that a 1977 state law requires an application for a sex change on a new birth certificate to be filed in the county where the applicant now lives.
But Friday, the First District Court of Appeal said the law violates the rights of someone like Somers to be treated the same as a transgender person who still lives in California.
Any law that penalizes someone for moving to another state restricts the constitutional right to travel and can be justified only if it meets an urgent government need, which doesn’t exist in this case, Justice James Marchiano said in the 3-0 ruling.
For anyone in a similar situation, the case is important because of “the emphasis placed on identity documents in our post-9/11 world,” said attorney Matt Wood of the Transgender Law Center in San Francisco, which represented Somers.
He said the federal government and employers are increasingly requiring birth certificates or passports to establish the identity of applicants for various programs and jobs.
Legislation that would have the same effect as the court ruling, AB1185 by Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance (Los Angeles County), was introduced in February but hasn’t passed yet, Wood said.
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