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NY sued to allow transgender youths to change birth certificates with new gender

LGBT activists and their supporters rally in support

LGBT activists and their supporters rally in support of transgender people on the steps of New York City Hall in Manhattan on Oct. 24, 2018. Credit: Getty Images/Drew Angerer

ALBANY — A teenager is suing New York State for failing to change the youth’s birth certificate to reflect a new gender identity.

The federal lawsuit announced Tuesday was filed in Syracuse on behalf of the 14-year-old, identified in the suit only as M.H.W. The Lambda Legal organization, which advocates for the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender individuals, filed the suit.

“I am a boy,” the teenager said in a statement provided by Lambda Legal. “It’s frustrating to see New York state deny me the opportunity to correct my birth certificate, which I need for so many important facets of my life. My birth certificate incorrectly says I’m female, but that’s not who I am and I need the state to correct that error and respect my identity.”

He is an Ithaca native who lives in Texas.

“We are deeply sympathetic to the situation as it has been described to us, but have yet to be served with this suit,” said Peter Ajemian, a spokesman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. “We will review it once we are.”

State legislative leaders were informed of the lawsuit but had no immediate comment.

In October, a Texas court agreed with his choice and ordered that his new name and gender be included in licenses and other Texas state documents, according to Lambda Legal.

He then corrected his passport to reflect his new name and gender identity, but his birth certificate in New York still identifies him as female. His mother said she fears that will create significant legal problems because the birth certificate won’t match updated documents needed to identify the youth.

New York already allows adults who receive clinical treatment for sex reassignment to change the gender on their birth certificates. In 2014, the state amended the law to no longer require any surgery before a birth certificate could be changed.

Minors are allowed to legally alter their gender on a birth certificate in California, Colorado, Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Washington and in New York City, according to Lambda Legal.

However, other states, primarily in the South, have used the gender stated on youths’ birth certificates to determine which public restrooms they are allowed to use under their states’ laws.

It’s a common concern. Only 11 percent of all transgender people in a survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality in 2016 said all their identifications had the name and gender they preferred, while 68 percent said none of their IDs had the name and gender they preferred.

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