December 8, 2014

Victory! New York City Council Votes to End Discriminatory Birth Certificate Policy

Passes Legislation Eliminating Surgery Requirement for Transgender People Seeking to Align Their Birth Certificates with Their True Selves

Action Comes After TLDEF Sues City for Discriminating Against Transgender People

New York, NY - The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) applauds the New York City Council for passing legislation today that will end the city’s discriminatory birth certificate policy. The bill – Int. 491 (2014) – introduced by Councilmember Corey Johnson, eliminates the surgery requirement for transgender people seeking to change the sex designation on their birth certificates.  The new policy will require that a licensed health care provider state under oath that based on contemporary expert standards, an individual’s true sex is not accurately recorded on their current birth certificate. Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign the bill into law.  The Board of Health is expected to adopt regulations tomorrow that mirror this legislation.

Today’s action will make it easier for transgender people to correct the sex designation on their birth certificates.  This new legislation comes after TLDEF clients Joann Prinzivalli, Patricia Harrington, Marco Wylie, and Naz Seenauth sued the City in a first-of-its-kind lawsuit challenging the requirement that transgender people undergo surgery in order to correct their birth certificates.

“We are thrilled by the passage of this legislation,” said TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman.  “Today’s action will dramatically improve the lives of transgender people born in New York City.  We thank Councilmember Johnson, the City Council and the Board of Health for taking action. The city’s policy served only to harm transgender people and they moved to change it.  We also thank the many activists and advocates who have worked tirelessly to ensure that the city’s harmful policy will be changed.”

“I am grateful to have played a role in helping to bring an end to the surgery requirement,” said Harrington. “It has been a long journey for me to be able to be myself and not worry about what other people think.  I'm proud to be a transgender woman and just want to live my life like everyone else. There’s nothing wrong with who I am and my birth certificate should reflect the true me.”

“I’ve spent a long time trying to be who I am,” said Seenauth. “I faced many challenges when I began to live openly as a man.  It has been difficult without an accurate birth certificate, and I often lived in fear of harassment and discrimination knowing that my birth certificate did not match the real me.  Today’s action will make life easier for countless transgender people who were born in New York City.”

“My birth certificate was incorrect when it was filled out, and it is still incorrect to this day,” said Prinzivalli. “The old policy was unfair to me and to other transgender people who just want ID that reflects who we are. I am extremely relieved and grateful for the City’s action.”

“It took a long time for me to accept myself and become the strong person I am today,” said Wylie. “Coming out was hard to do. Not being able to correct my birth certificate to reflect who I really am made it even harder. The city’s new policy is a major step forward for transgender people.”

New York City joins seven other jurisdictions that have eliminated similar surgery requirements including California, Iowa, New York State, Oregon, Vermont, Washington State, and Washington, D.C.

The lawsuit is captioned Joann Prinzivalli, Patricia Harrington, Marco Wylie and Naz Seenauth v. Thomas Farley, et al. (Supreme Court, New York County, No. 114372/2009). TLDEF is co-counsel for the plaintiffs with Kaye Scholer LLP.  The Kaye Scholer team includes Angela Vicari (counsel), Lindsay Moilanen (associate), Paul Andrews (associate), Michel Pignatiello (fmr. associate), and Hillary Warren (fmr. associate).