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Trans Montanans and ACLU sue state over birth certificate gender markers

Having a birth certificate that does not match gender identity puts trans people at higher risk of harassment, hostility, and discrimination

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13th Judicial District, Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings, Montana (Screen capture via Google Earth)

MISSOULA, Mont. – Amelia Marquez, a transgender woman, and John Doe, a transgender man, filed a lawsuit today challenging a new law that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to correct the sex designation on their birth certificates.

Marquez and Doe’s case asserts that Senate Bill 280 violates their constitutional right to privacy, equal protection of the law, and due process. 

SB 280 requires a transgender person to receive a certified copy of an order from a court indicating that the sex of the person has been changed by “surgical procedure.” The court order must then be provided to the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS). For many transgender Montanans, surgical procedures are either unnecessary or cost-prohibitive.  

Marquez, a lifetime resident of Montana, has known she was a woman for the majority of her adult life. While Marquez has undertaken hormone therapy and counseling, she cannot afford the surgery required by SB 280, nor does she want to undergo the surgery at this time. Marquez, like many transgender women, has dealt with harassment, discrimination, and violence, and regularly fears being targeted because of her identity. Having a birth certificate that does not match her gender identity puts her at higher risk of harassment, hostility, and discrimination.  

“I would like to change the sex designation on my birth certificate to match my female gender identity, but am unable to do so because of the Act,” said Amelia Marquez.  “My inability to obtain a birth certificate that accurately reflects my female gender identity is a painful and stigmatizing reminder of the State of Montana’s refusal to recognize me as a woman. Further, denying me an accurate birth certificate places me at risk of embarrassment or even violence every time I am required to present my birth certificate, because it incorrectly identifies me as male.” 

Doe, a 22-year-old man born in Gallatin County who currently resides outside of Montana, has known he is a man since his adolescence. Doe currently works two jobs while he waits to attend college in the fall. He would like to correct the gender designation on his birth certificate to accurately reflect his gender, but does not wish to be subject to the public humiliation and degradation of having to provide his deeply personal medical records and publicly out his transgender status. 

Doe currently receives gender-affirming care, including hormone therapy and counseling for gender dysphoria. In the spring of 2021, Doe underwent a gender-affirming surgery and does not intend to undergo additional surgeries that may be required by the new law in order to correct a birth certificate.  

“The fear of having to produce his medical records in a public forum, forcing him to out himself as transgender, is unconscionable,” said Akilah Lane, ACLU-MT staff attorney. “In addition, requiring Mr. Doe to appear in court would result in significant emotional and financial burdens that are absolutely unnecessary. Mr. Doe, Ms. Marquez, and all Montanans who seek to correct the sex designation on their birth certificate should be able to without the undue burden created by this recent and inhumane law.” 

“At a time when states all across the country are removing government red tape from the lives of transgender and non-binary people who want accurate identity documents, Montana has decided to increase government bureaucracy in people’s lives,” said John Knight, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. “Courts and state lawmakers around the country have increasingly said that these barriers to accurate identity documents are unnecessary and serve no purpose for the government. Transgender and non-binary people need recognition of who they are and not permission from the government to live their lives.” 

Before the passage of SB 280, transgender Montanans needed only to provide an affidavit to DPHHS to change the gender marker on a birth certificate. This process was efficient and easy and was administered without problem until the legislature decided to act.  

The ACLU of Montana, the ACLU Jon L. Stryker and Slobodan Randjelović LGBTQ and HIV Project, and Nixon Peabody LLC represent Vazquez. 

The lawsuit, Marquez v State, was filed in the 13th Judicial District, Yellowstone County. 

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Louisiana lawmakers fail to overturn Edwards veto of Trans sports bill

Edwards further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.”

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Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards (Photo Credit: Official state portrait)

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana lawmakers failed to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ (D) veto last month of a bill that would have barred trans girls and women from participating on athletic teams or in sporting events designated for girls or women at elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools.

The measure, Senate Bill 156 authored by Sen. Beth Mizell titled the ‘the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,’ in the Governor’s eyes, “was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana,” Edwards said in his veto statement;

“As I have said repeatedly when asked about this bill, discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana. Even the author of the bill acknowledged throughout the legislative session that there wasn’t a single case where this was an issue. 

The Republican majority state House chamber failed to override the Governor’s veto after voting 68-30 to override it, according to the state legislature’s website.

The vote narrowly missed the 70-vote threshold needed in the lower chamber to override the veto.

Two-thirds of both the House and Senate must vote to override a governor’s veto, according to the local Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate.

The Governor reacted to the news that his veto withstood Republican efforts to overturn it in a press conference Wednesday.

Edwards noted that in his view he had “rejected a play” that had no place in Louisiana. 

“I would rather the headlines going out from today be that Louisiana did what was right and best. We rejected a play out of a national playbook that just had no place in Louisiana. That bill wasn’t crafted for our state, I mean go read it and look at the arguments that were made. None of that applies here,” Edwards said.

He further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.” 

“We have to be better than that,” Edwards said. “We have to be better than that.” 

 

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Federal court blocks West Virginia Law banning Trans youth sports

“It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

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Becky Pepper-Jackson (Photo credit: ACLU/Raymond Thompson)


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A judge of the United States District Court, Southern District of West Virginia ruled Wednesday that 11-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson must be allowed to try out for the girls’ cross-country and track teams at her school, blocking West Virginia from enforcing a law that bans transgender girls and women from participating in school sports. 

The ruling came in the lawsuit challenging the ban filed by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of West Virginia, and Cooley LLP.

“I am excited to know that I will be able to try out for the girls’ cross-country team and follow in the running shoes of my family,” said Becky Pepper-Jackson, the plaintiff in the lawsuit. “It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed H.B. 3293 into law at the end of April. It was one of hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills pushed in state legislatures across the country in 2021. During legislative debate, it was not endorsed by any mainstream sporting or health organizations. A similar law in Idaho was blocked by a federal court in 2020, and a federal court in Connecticut recently dismissed a challenge to policies that allow all girls, including girls who are transgender, to participate on girls’ sports teams. Legal challenges are underway against similar laws passed in other states.

The Supreme Court recently refused to disturb Gavin Grimm’s victory at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, where he prevailed in challenging his school’s anti-transgender discrimination against him. This decision — which is binding precedent in West Virginia federal court — said that federal law protects transgender students from discrimination in schools.

“This is great news for Becky, and while our work is not done yet, today’s ruling jibes with similar rulings in other courts across the country,” said Avatara Smith-Carrington, Tyron Garner Memorial Law Fellow, Lambda Legal. “It is our hope that courts recognize and address discrimination when they see it, and nowhere is it more visible than in these stark attacks against trans youth.”

“Becky — like all students — should have the opportunity to try out for a sports team and play with her peers,” said Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. “We hope this also sends a message to other states to stop demonizing trans kids to score political points and to let these kids live their lives in peace.” 

“We’ve said all along this cruel legislation would not survive a legal challenge, and we’re encouraged by the court’s decision today,” said ACLU-WV Legal Director Loree Stark. “We hope trans kids throughout West Virginia who felt attacked and wronged by the passage of this legislation are feeling empowered by today’s news.”

“We are extremely gratified — for Becky, and for all trans youth — at the court’s recognition that the law and the facts clearly support treating people who are transgender fairly and equally. Discrimination has no place in schools or anywhere else,” said Kathleen Hartnett of Cooley LLP.

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Conservative groups attack proposed Alabama capital city’s LGBTQ law

The groups allege that the law would require Christians to violate their religious beliefs or face fines under certain circumstances

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Approach to the Alabama State Capitol (Blade file photo)

MONTGOMERY – The Alabama capital’s City Council is being urged to reject a proposed ordinance that would make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes under the law.  Matthew Clark, the Executive Director of the conservative Alabama Center for Law and Liberty sent a letter on behalf of his group and six allied organizations asking the Council to abandon a vote implementing the ordnance.

According to the letter, the groups allege that the law would require Christians to violate their religious beliefs or face fines under certain circumstances. Prominent among the other signatures is Mathew D. Staver, Chairman of Liberty Counsel which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as an extremist anti-LGBTQ hate group.

The SPLC, which has its headquarters in Montgomery, writes; “The Liberty Counsel has also been active in the battle against same-sex marriage and hate crimes legislation, which it claimed in a 2007 news release to be “’thought crimes’ laws that violate the right to freedom of speech and of conscience” and will “have a chilling effect on people who have moral or religious objections to homosexual behavior.” In that same release, the Liberty Counsel falsely claimed that the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyo., had nothing to do with homosexuality, but instead was “a bungled robbery.”

In the letter Clark noted; ““As we read the ordinance, churches could be fined if they refuse to allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice, and they might be fined if they refused to let same-sex couples use their facilities for weddings,” Clark said. “They could also be fined if they declined to hire non-ministerial personnel, such as facility managers or secretaries, whose sexual orientation or gender identity contradicts the tenants of the church’s faith.”

“Christian schools, small business owners, and homeowners are also in the crosshairs. Schools could face liability if they decline to let transgender students use the locker rooms of their choice,” Clark said. “Small business owners like Jack Phillips [referring to Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission] could face liability. And homeowners who list their homes on Airbnb could be fined if they declined to let a same-sex couple engage in sexual activities in their home that violate the tenants of their faith.”

Clark then warned the City Council that if it passes the ordinance, litigation could result and the City would likely lose.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported last month that City Mayor Steven Reed said a council vote in favor of the LGTBQ nondiscrimination ordinance that’s now being drafted in Montgomery would send a message. 

“There are signals that communities can send, and this is an important signal not only to those residents that live here right now but people all over the country that have maybe one idea of Alabama and Montgomery, and we want to show them that there’s a different reality here,” he said. 

Reed and his team have been working with the Human Rights Campaign and other advocacy groups to draft an ordinance that would expand protections for LGBTQ residents in the state’s capital city. The proposed measure, which would specifically target discrimination in government, employment and housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity the Advertiser reported.

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