Two transgender individuals sued the Pennsylvania Division of Vital Records on May 13, contending that its refusal to provide them birth certificates without undergoing sex reassignment surgery (SRS) infringes upon their rights under federal equal protection and disability discrimination laws.
“It will provide security and protection for trans people born in Pennsylvania who choose to change their birth certificate because the law will recognize them for who they really were born as—as who they really are,” attorney Julie Chovanes from Trans-Help, who is representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, told The Daily Beast. “So it’s the right thing to do.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act explicitly exempts from its definition of disability “transvestism, transsexualism, pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments, or other sexual behavior disorders.”
The two plaintiffs, who have gender dysphoria, argue that the exemption violates the Equal Protection Clause by “arbitrarily, intentionally, and in bad faith discriminating on the basis of sex, gender identity or expression and/or disability.”
Moreover, they contend that their diagnosis falls under the ADA’s existing definition, adding that the law also discriminates against different types of transgender people.
“(Gender Dysphoria) is a disability within the meaning of the ADA in that it substantially impairs one or more major life activities, including, but not limited to, interacting with others, reproducing and social and occupational function…,” the lawsuit states [PDF], filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. “Defendants’ Policy, in providing inaccurate birth certificates to trans individuals with GD, but who have not or will not undergo GCS, while at the same time providing accurate birth certificates to all others, is without any rational basis.”
In January 2015, a Pennsylvania transgender woman Kate Lynn Blatt, with the assistance of Sidney L. Gold & Associates, filed what was believed to be the first lawsuit challenging the ADA’s “sexual behavior disorders” exclusion. The lawsuit, which was also filed in Pennsylvania’s Eastern District, is pending.
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, just seven states allow people to obtain new birth certificates without undergoing SRS. The federal government imposes no such requirement for people to obtain new passports or Social Security cards, nor does Pennsylvania for drivers licenses.
Under HB 2, North Carolina’s much-publicized “bathroom” bill, people must use the bathrooms that correspond to their birth certificates, which requires proof of SRS, according to the Daily Beast.