COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The case of a transgender woman whose request to change the sex marker on her birth certificate was rejected is heading to the Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments on Tuesday after Hailey Adelaide’s application to correct the sex marker on her birth certificate was denied in late 2021 by the Clark County Probate Court. The court argued the initial recording of Adelaide’s marker at birth was not made in error and “found there was nothing to be corrected,” documents show.
“All evidence suggests that Adelaide was born in a hospital wherein the information for her birth certificate was prepared, completed, certified, and filed according to the applicable statutes,” the ruling states. “There is no allegation that the above-described process was done in error.”
Adelaide appealed the ruling in August, sending the case to the Ohio Supreme Court. Given the 2020 federal court ruling affirmed trans Ohioans have the right to request a change, the Buckeye State’s seven justices will review the process and decide if changes need to be implemented.
What is the process to correct the sex marker on an Ohio birth certificate?
A majority of states allow trans Americans to correct the sex marker on their birth certificate. However, in Ohio, Adelaide’s case demonstrates that the process is contingent on how certain judges interpret the law.
A procedure for trans Ohioans to correct their certificate was established by the Ohio Department of Health in 2021 following the 2020 ruling. The ODH uses the same process for trans people to change their sex marker as it uses for other corrections to Ohio birth certificates. Applicants need to request a “court-ordered correction of a birth record” using a form issued by any one of Ohio’s 88 probate courts, one in each county.
The procedure is free and can be completed by anyone born in Ohio, even if the applicant is now living in another state. However, each court may have varying rules and require different documentation.
In Franklin County, applicants need to fill out this form and deliver it to the county’s probate court at 373 S. High St. Hamilton County applicants need to complete this form and present a letter from a health professional verifying “transgender status.” A similar process is required in Cuyahoga County using this form.
Adelaide initially submitted an application in Clark County to change the name on her certificate in September 2021, followed by an application to correct the sex marker the next month. Once a form is received, the changes may take anywhere from four weeks to four months to be processed. However, Adelaide’s two applications were consolidated for a hearing in November in 2021.
Court documents show Adelaide explained to the court that she began to question her identity at age 4 and argued there was an error on her certificate “because the male sex marker did not take into account her mental state,” documents state. With her testimony, Adelaide included a copy of a letter signed by her mental healthcare provider, William Ford, and Dr. John P. Layh, a clinical psychologist supervisor.
“I, William H. Ford, Sr., MRC, acknowledge and attest to the sexual identity of [Adelaide] as
‘female’ both psychologically and in lifestyle gender expression,” the letter states.
Procedure calls for the old certificate to be sealed in a vault only accessible to the applicant followed by the ODH issuing a new certificate with no bearing evidence of a change being made. However, at the conclusion of the hearing, the probate court granted Adelaide’s request for a change of name but withheld a decision on her sex marker application.
Clark County Probate Court issued a written decision denying Adelaide’s request in December that year.
“The court rejected Adelaide’s arguments that the word ‘sex’ and the phrase ‘has not been properly and accurately recorded’ were ambiguous,” documents show.
After the Second District Court of Appeals agreed with Clark County Probate Court, Adelaide appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.
Trans Ohioans were denied the ability to seek changes to their birth certificate until the ACLU in conjunction with Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit in 2018 against the ODH. Plaintiffs Stacie Ray, Ashley Breda, and Basil Argento argued the state’s ban compromised safety and could lead to future bodily harm.
Ray recalled when she started a job and was required to show her birth certificate to a room of 10 to 15 new colleagues. Ray was questioned why the gender on her birth certificate and driver’s license did not match.
“Ray’s forced disclosure caused her to both experience threats and have her intimate personal information revealed,” court documents said. “Ray’s co-workers harassed her as a result of this forced disclosure – they called her a ‘freak,’ and one co-worker threatened to ‘beat [her] ass’ if she used a women’s restroom.”
Breda also had to present her birth certificate to an employer and was verbally harassed. Breda was told she would “never be a woman” and that she would “always be a man in God’s eyes,” documents show.
Argento testified that the forced disclosure of private information like being transgender left a psychological toll.
“It’s a lot of time dehumanizing because I’m telling something very personal about myself that I don’t want to be telling a stranger,” he said.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio ruled in Ray’s favor in December 2020. The ruling cites a 2015 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality that found 36% of respondents in Ohio who have an ID with a name of gender that does not match their gender presentation have been “verbally harassed, denied benefits or service, asked to leave or assaulted.”
“Forced disclosure of a transgender individual’s status as transgender was highly personal sexual information that was protected by the due process clause’s informational right to privacy,” the ruling states. “The excruciatingly private and intimate nature of being transgender, for persons who wish to preserve privacy in the matter, is really beyond debate.”
Learn more about birth record corrections from the Department of Health here.