Press Release

Cooley + Coalition Sue Arizona to Correct Birth Certificates for Transgender Youth

November 5, 2020

San Francisco – November 5, 2020 – Cooley, along with co-counsel at the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Osborn Maledon, filed a lawsuit challenging Arizona’s requirement that transgender people undergo surgery before the Arizona Department of Health Services will correct the sex listed on their birth certificates. Because transgender children are too young for surgery, and may never need it at all, Arizona’s surgical requirement prevents them from correcting their birth certificates. Lawyers Patrick Gunn, Barrett Anderson, Chris Martin and Dustin Knight lead the Cooley effort. 

The plaintiffs are D.T., Jane Doe and Helen Roe, who are all transgender young people seeking to correct their Arizona birth certificates. Birth certificates are the most common document required by schools, extracurricular activities, sports leagues and other organizations to prove a child’s age and identity. Having to use their current, inaccurate birth certificates forces D.T., Jane and Helen to disclose their transgender status – private information they do not wish to share – causing them serious emotional harm and putting them at risk of discrimination, harassment and violence. 

The lawsuit alleges that Arizona’s surgical requirement violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the US Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment. Because of the severe bullying and harassment Jane experienced in school, Cooley, NCLR and Osborn Maledon also filed a motion for preliminary injunction seeking a court order requiring ADHS to issue Jane a corrected birth certificate so that her parents can enroll her in a new school before in-person learning resumes in January.

“Access to corrected identity documents is critically important to the health and well-being of transgender people,” Asaf Orr, senior staff attorney and director of the Transgender Youth Project at NCLR, said in a news release. “For young people, the birth certificate affects everything from school records to camp registration and sports participation. The US Constitution protects the right of transgender people to be who they are without interference from the government. Arizona’s surgery requirement runs afoul of that fundamental constitutional principle.”

“Arizona needlessly prevents transgender young people from correcting their birth certificate, an essential identity document,” added Anderson. “The surgical requirement serves no legitimate purpose and causes untold harm.”

Cooley partners with local and national legal services organizations, including numerous organizations that focus on LGBTQ+ rights like NCLR, to represent hundreds of pro bono clients annually. Through its pro bono work, Cooley empowers individuals to seek justice and opportunity and provides nonprofit organizations the tools they need to effect change and support underserved communities. Alongside NCLR, a Cooley pro bono team achieved a landmark victory for a transgender inmate, persuading the US Supreme Court to let stand a decision in an Eighth Amendment suit.

Read the full press release from NCLR

Read the complaint

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