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Allow Transgender People in Tennessee to Amend Their Birth Certificates

This petition had 1,357 supporters


In 1977, the Tennessee state legislature passed a statute that prohibits the state from altering the gender marker on birth certificates for transgender people. Chapter 3 of the Vital Records Act of 1977, T.C.A. § 68-3-203(d), explicitly states that “the sex of an individual shall not be changed on the original certificate of birth as a result of sex change surgery.”

It remains unchanged nearly four decades later, despite the most recent efforts by Representative Jeanne Richardson, Representative Mike Kernell and Senator Beverly Marrero to bring Tennessee law current with SB0313 and HB0187. These bills would have amended T.C.A. § 68-3-203 by deleting subsection (d) in its entirety and substituting instead the following: “(d) Upon receipt of a sworn statement by a physician, surgeon, endocrinologist, gynecologist, internist, neurologist, psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker indicating that the gender of a person has been changed, the certificate of birth of the individual shall be amended to reflect the change.” Unfortunately, the bill failed when it reached the House Health and Human Resources Subcommittee.

Tennessee is one of the five remaining states that has failed to acknowledge the urgent legal needs of its transgender residents, and it continues to be hindered by the introduction of anti-LGBT bills. The implications of this hostile environment are far reaching, particularly for the most underrepresented and marginalized population of the LGBT community.

By virtue of being transgender, individuals face countless obstacles and hardships in their daily lives, and the lack of legislation in Tennessee to ensure they may live freely, openly and safely makes their circumstances exponentially more difficult. Being unable to change the gender marker on their birth certificates poses many unnecessary complications and risks, particularly in situations where disclosure of birth certificates is required, forcing the individual to be “out” as transgender. Combined with continued discrimination and the lack of workplace equality protection for sexual orientation and gender identity in Tennessee, this is a recipe for disaster.

Recently, a bill introduced by Senator Bo Watson and Representative Richard Floyd, who publicly stated that he would “just try to stomp a mud hole in him and then stomp him dry” if he ever saw a transwoman use the same public facility as his wife or daughter, would have allowed transgender residents to be fined $50 for using a restroom or dressing room that did not align with the gender marker on their identification. In this case, transgender people who were not able to amend their birth certificates and subsequent identification, such as driver’s licenses or passports, would have been unjustly targeted and penalized. Fortunately, the bill did not pass.

After 37 years, it is time for that to change. There are no excuses. Tell lawmakers in the House Health and Human Resource Subcommittee that their vote against transgender people is completely unacceptable, and the public will not stand for discrimination against the transgender community.



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