A transgender woman sued top health officials in Idaho on Tuesday for the right to change her birth certificate's sex marker to female, saying in US District Court that a state policy blocking her from updating the document has led to humiliation, such as being called "tranny" and "faggot" in a federal social security office.
It's the second lawsuit filed this month by a prominent LGBT group, Lambda Legal, to challenge a small handful states that still ban transgender people from fixing their birth record.
Like a similar case in Puerto Rico, the complaint filed Tuesday says Idaho's Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics is violating the woman's constitutional rights to liberty and speech, while tacitly endorsing discrimination.
The 28-year-old plaintiff, who is identified only by the initials F.V., asked the state in March to change her certificate, which currently says she is male. Officials refused.
"The incorrect gender on F.V.’s birth certificate has exposed her to hostility when she visited the social security office," the suit says. "After seeing her birth certificate, staff at the office referred to her as a 'tranny,' a derogatory term that disclosed F.V.’s transgender status to others in the waiting area. One of these individuals then called F.V. a 'faggot' as she was leaving the office."
Peter C. Renn, a Lambda Legal attorney who filed the case on behalf of F.V., told BuzzFeed News, "It is especially dangerous for the government to not recognize people for who they are because the government leads by example."
Transgender people rely on birth certificates to update other forms of government identification, he said, and when it shows a different sex marker than the gender they present, it outs them. "Whether we are talking about access to restrooms or violence against transgender people, so much of the discriminations stems from a refusal to recognize their gender."
Idaho law does not explicitly empower the Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics to change the sex markers of birth certificates, which has led to officials saying they cannot comply with those requests.
Although 46 states let transgender people update their birth certificates, Kansas, Ohio, Puerto Rico, and Tennessee don't. Renn said a legal challenge is underway in Kansas by the Transgender Law Center, in addition to the cases in Idaho and Puerto Rico.
"There's not much left to go after we knock these out," he said. "I think we want to see all of these archaic policies put into the dustbin of history."
The suit asks a federal judge to declare Idaho's birth certificate policy unconstitutional and issue an injunction that blocks state officials from enforcing it.
Dominic Holden is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Dominic Holden at email@example.com.
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