A Cook County, Illinois Judge approved a consent decree that will allow transgender people to change the gender on their Illinois birth certificates without undergoing genital surgery. The agreement is a result of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union last year on behalf of three transgender individuals. Lauren Grey, Victor Williams, and Nicholas Guarino all wanted to correct the sex designation on their birth certificates but either did not want or need genital surgery and as a result could not make changes to their documents.
The ACLU argued that the state’s requirement that a person have genital reconstruction surgery before being allowed to change their gender designation on their birth certificate excludes those sex changes that do not involve genital reconstruction or those who could not afford the procedure and creates unnecessary hurdles for transgender individuals seeking to have their identifying documents match their actual identities.
According to the ACLU, for 50 years Illinois allowed people who underwent gender confirmation surgery to change their birth certificate, but several years ago began interpreting the law to require genital surgery. After the lawsuit was filed the state changed its policy to eliminate the genital reconstruction requirement. The ACLU continued with the suit to prevent the state from later changing course yet again. The consent decree makes sure that happens.
“It is critical that our clients and others are able to get birth certificates that accurately reflect who they are without being required to undergo costly surgery that they may not want or need,” said John Knight, director of the Illinois ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project. “The state never should have involved itself in these private decisions about medical care.”
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The agreement prohibits the state from denying a new birth certificate to someone just because he or she hasn’t undergone genital reconstruction and orders the health department to notify anyone who has been denied a change in sex designation that they are eligible for a new birth certificate. The new policy, while not mandating genital surgery specifically, does require some form of transition-related surgery, a sticking point for many activists, who have advocated against a surgical mandate in the policy.
Knight described the consent decree as an important first step but told the Windy City Times that the ACLU would likely push for an even better rule. “I think we will look at a way to either persuade the legislature or go back to court at some point, asking that the surgical requirement be removed completely,” Knight said.