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Judge strikes down Ohio prohibition on transgender people correcting birth certificates

A transgender flag being waved at LGBT gay pride march; Shutterstock ID 1449773756; Job: CNN Photos

(CNN) — A federal judge on Wednesday struck down Ohio’s policy prohibiting transgender residents from correcting the gender marker on their birth certificate, clearing the way for individuals to alter the document to reflect their gender identity.

Judge Michael Watson wrote in his decision that prior to 2016, the state had allowed such changes to be made, but that the new policy, which was instituted by the state’s Department of Health in consultation with then-Republican Gov. John Kasich’s office, violates the Constitution.

“This policy resembles the sort of discrimination-based legislation struck down under the equal protection clause in Romer v. Evans as nothing more than a policy ‘born of animosity toward the class of person affected’ that has ‘no rational relation to a legitimate government purpose,’ ” he wrote, referring to a landmark 1996 gay rights case.

Watson shot down several of the state’s arguments in the case, including their defense that the the policy intended to ensure the state maintains “accurate records,” and their explanation that some criminals “use Ohio birth certificates to perpetuate fraud.”

“At bottom, the court finds that defendants’ proffered justifications are nothing more than thinly veiled post-hoc rationales to deflect from the discriminatory impact of the Policy,” he wrote in the ruling.

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CNN has reached out to the Ohio Department of Health on whether it intends to appeal the decision.

The case was first brought more than two years ago by four transgender Ohioans who had been denied the opportunity to correct their birth certificates.

“This is truly a victory for the LGBT community, in every aspect,” said Stacie Ray, one of the plaintiffs, in a statement Wednesday.

Kara Ingelhart, an attorney with Lambda Legal, an LGBTQ group that was involved in the lawsuit, stressed in a statement that it’s important for transgender Ohioans to have the ability “to correct their birth certificates so that this necessary identity document is consistent with their gender identities.”

“Accurate birth certificates are essential,” she said. “They are foundational to our ability to access a variety of benefits such as employment and housing, and to navigate the world freely and safely, as who we truly are.”

The group noted in the statement that Tennessee now remains the only state that doesn’t allow such changes to be made to birth certificates from residents in the state.

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