Illinois Vital Records division refuses to issue correct documents

January 28, 2009

Image from Chicago Sun TimesVia the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune, I see that two trans women have filed a lawsuit challenging the Illinois Vital Records division’s refusal to change their birth certificates.

Kari Rothkopf and Tori Kirk both underwent gender reaffirmation surgery in Thailand, and because both women had their surgeries overseas (not in the United States), the Illinois Vital Records division has refused to correct their documents.

This seemingly authoritarian interpretation of the state’s Vital Records Act is now being challenged by the ACLU on behalf of the two women, on the grounds that the denials are a violation of state law.

Officials with the Illinois Department of Public Health — which encompasses the Vital Records division — say their hands are tied.

“We are following the Vital Records Act, and we are simply enforcing that,” said department spokeswoman Melaney Arnold. “The part that we are particularly looking at is the definition of physician. Physician means a person licensed to practice medicine in Illinois or any other state.”

As in, one of the United States.


Joel Ginsberg, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, estimates that between 1,600 and 2,000 patients undergo major gender-related surgeries each year.

“Given that many if not most health plans will not reimburse for medically necessary transgender surgery procedures, many transgender people find it necessary to leave the country in order to get the services they need,” Ginsberg said. “So it’s both illogical and unfair to not allow people to change their legal documentation to reflect the reality about their bodies and their condition.”


(Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia)


2 Responses to “Illinois Vital Records division refuses to issue correct documents”

  1. Carolyn Ann Says:

    Sometimes a lawsuit like this is needed to change a poorly worded law. It’s not definite that the law can be changed, but at least it’s the start of a legislative process to getting a law changed.

    The government agency is not at liberty to redefine the law; for them to do so would be egregious, at the very least. If the law defines a physician one way, then it is up to the plaintiffs lawyers to either demonstrate that the definition is inconsistent, or that it flies in the face of some other law. But it is a process, and one that democracy relies upon. It’s not a perfect system, and the poor wording in this law does need changing – but I’m glad I live in a country where such definitions can be changed via a lawsuit. (You can’t do that in Britain!) Of course, this doesn’t negate the fact that this wording was added, in the first place!

    But I’m glad these two women are standing up and saying the law is wrong.

    Carolyn Ann

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