CHICAGO (AP)—People who undergo sex changes will find it easier to change the gender on their Illinois birth certificates under an agreement approved Tuesday by a Cook County judge.
The Illinois Department of Public Health previously denied requests to change the gender on a birth certificate unless the person had undergone genital reconstruction surgery. But the American Civil Liberties Union sued last year on behalf of three transgender individuals, arguing that the state’s rules should not specify what kind of surgery a person must have before updating a birth certificate.
Some sex changes don’t involve genital reconstruction for medical or financial reasons, the ACLU said. For example, a woman transferring to a man might choose to have breast-reduction surgery but nothing else.
After the ACLU filed its legal challenge, the Department of Public Health changed its policy to eliminate the requirement for genital reconstruction. But the court proceedings continued because the ACLU feared the department could reverse course.
The agreement approved by Judge Michael Hyman was reached in July. It prohibits the state from denying a new birth certificate to someone just because he or she hasn’t undergone genital reconstruction and orders the health department to notify anyone who has been denied a change in sex designation that they are eligible for a new birth certificate.
“It is critical that our clients and others are able to get birth certificates that accurately reflect who they are without being required to undergo costly surgery that they may not want or need,” said John Knight, director of the Illinois ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project. “The state never should have involved itself in these private decisions about medical care.”
The ACLU said that for 50 years Illinois allowed people who underwent gender confirmation surgery to change their birth certificate, but several years ago began interpreting the law to require genital surgery.
Health department spokeswoman Melaney Arnold did not know how many people had been denied updated birth certificates and said the department did not immediately have a comment.