We here at the ACLU of Ohio are going to begin celebrating Pride early this year – and here’s why: as the result of our litigation in Ray v. McCloud, a federal court ordered the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) to create policies allowing transgender individuals born in Ohio to correct the gender or “sex” marker on Ohio birth certificates. Make no mistake, this was a long time coming, as Ohio is one of the last states to allow this, coming second to only one other state: Tennessee.
On March 29, 2018, the ACLU of Ohio, ACLU, and Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit challenging the ODH’s refusal to correct the gender marker on birth certificates for trans folks for any reason. At the time, Ohio was one of three states that did not allow this; Kansas reached a legal settlement in June of 2019. Ohio’s discriminatory policy was struck down in December of 2020, by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. Per the ruling, Judge Watson wrote: “All the Court [continuously found was] that a blanket prohibition against transgender people changing their sex maker is unconstitutional.”
As of May 2021, the ODH has created and listed a process on how trans folks born in Ohio can now have their birth certificates truly reflect who they are – without worry about the hurdles of attempting to verify eligibility for employment or public benefits, clearing background checks, or obtaining other identity documents, because they will no longer have to unwillingly out themselves every time they present their birth certificates.
If you, or a trans loved one of yours, needs information on how to begin this process, read on below!*
Note: ODH has decided to use the same process it uses for other corrections of the birth certificate. This process is called a court-ordered correction of a birth record. More information can be found here.
Moreover, along with our partners nationally and across the state, the ACLU of Ohio is going to work to make sure people who need corrected birth certificates are able to obtain them in the easiest, fairest way possible. We plan to develop further helpful resources for applicants, which will be posted to our website and across our social media channels.
First, it is required that the applicant obtain an order from a probate court for a correction of their birth certificate. This probate court can be in Ohio or out of state. Worthy of mention is that applicants may also want request a change of name along with a correction of gender, and this can be accomplished at the same time in probate court.
Each probate court has different regulations on how to obtain the court order, so it is best to contact the probate court for the most up to date information. Ohio has 88 different probate courts (one in each county), and each jurisdiction may have slightly different rules. It is also important to note that under Ohio’s statutes, probate courts in Ohio need not require any particular evidence or a hearing to issue a birth certificate correction order, but some probate courts may have additional requirements.
Once the order is entered by a probate court, Ohio courts will automatically send this to ODH, and the Department will automatically make the correction. If the applicant is out of state, the court order can be mailed to ODH to:
Ohio Department of Health
Bureau of Vital Statistics
PO Box 15098
Columbus, OH. 43215-0098
In either case, once the probate court’s correction is received by ODH, the Department will seal the old birth certificate in a vault, and it will not be accessible to anyone but the applicant. They will then issue a new, corrected birth certificate, with no bearing of evidence of changes being made. Additionally, while there is no cost to change a birth certificate, there is a cost to obtain a paper certified copy of the corrected birth certificate, which is equal to the cost of any request for duplicate copies of birth certificates. You can obtain a copy three ways: online, through mail, or in-person at local offices in Ohio.
While the ACLU of Ohio prefers that folks are able to obtain a corrected birth certificate easier than the highlighted procedure above, this is currently the only way as ODH developed and implemented the procedures. Do not fear, we are here to help along the way! Visit our Trans Spotlight page for FAQs as well as trans-related resources. Additionally, make sure to follow TransOhio, Equality Ohio, Equitas, OCTOPUS LLC, and Living With Change, as many of these organizations will be holding clinics and other information sessions on birth certificate gender marker changes.
*This is not legal advice, and the ACLU of Ohio is not providing legal advice or legal representation to individuals referencing our materials.