Tennessee sued over anti-transgender birth certificate policy

Plaintiff Kayla Gore, 33, speaking at a press conference on Tuesday announcing the lawsuit. (Photo courtesy of Lambda Legal)
Plaintiff Kayla Gore, 33, speaking at a press conference on Tuesday announcing the lawsuit. (Photo courtesy of Lambda Legal)

NASHVILLE — On Tuesday, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit against Tennessee over its restrictive birth certificate police.

The state prohibits transgender people born in Tennessee from correcting the gender marker on their birth certificates. Tennessee is one of just three remaining states, including Kansas and Ohio, with such a policy. Lambda Legal also has lawsuits against those states.

“I have been a woman my entire life. However, the state of Tennessee refuses to recognize my identity and forces me to carry incorrect identity documents. Tennessee’s discriminatory policy complicates every aspect of transgender people’s lives,” said plaintiff Kayla Gore, 33, who lives in Memphis, Tennessee. “In times where anti-trans violence is escalating, especially against trans women of color, I deserve to have identity documents that reflect who I am and don’t put me in harm’s way – the same as anyone would want for themself and their loved ones.”

“Tennessee’s birth certificate policy is archaic and discriminatory. By refusing to correct the birth certificates of transgender Tennesseans, Tennessee puts transgender people in harm’s way and violates our most fundamental constitutional rights,” said Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan in an announcement from Lambda Legal. “Forty-seven states, DC, and Puerto Rico acknowledge the importance of allowing people to have access to essential government identity documents that accurately reflect their sex, consistent with their gender identity. It is time for Tennessee to join them. We won’t rest until we remove every governmental barrier to recognizing and respecting every transgender person’s identity in this country.”

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee in Nashville on behalf of four transgender people born in Tennessee – Kayla Gore, Jason Scott, and two plaintiffs identified by their initials, L.G. and K.N.

The lawsuit, Gore v. Lee, argues that denying transgender people in Tennessee the ability to obtain accurate birth certificates violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution, the legal advocacy group stated. The lawsuit also argues that forcing transgender people through their birth certificates to identify with a sex that is not who they are violates their free speech rights under the First Amendment.

Lambda Legal stated that there are a number of anti-LGBTQ bills moving in the Tennessee legislature, including bills that would allow child welfare agencies to reject same-sex couples seeking to adopt based on religious grounds, prohibit same-sex couples from marrying, and restrict transgender people’s access to facilities.

According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, almost one-third of transgender who showed an identity document with a name or gender marker that conflicted with their perceived gender were harassed, denied benefits or services, discriminated against or assaulted. Transgender people also are disproportionately targeted for hate crimes.

Read about the case here: https://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/cases/tn_gore-v-lee