Across the country, laws governing corrections to gender markers on birth certificates are relatively uniform, in large part because many states adopted the relevant provisions of the 1977 revision of the Model State Vital Statistics Act (MSVSA). The MSVSA, developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, guides states on the most efficient laws and procedures related to maintaining accurate birth, death, and other vital records at the state, local, and territorial level. At the time when the government promulgated the MSVSA provision related to gender corrections, it served as a forward-thinking model because it acknowledged that vital records should be corrected in the case of individuals who change their gender. Specifically, the 1977 MSVSA recommended that corrections to gender markers on birth certificates be granted after applicants change their sex by "surgical procedure" and provide a court order to that effect. Additionally, the MSVSA recommended that the correction be kept private. Over the past three decades, transgender legal rights have advanced and understanding of transgender medicine has evolved. Experts in transgender law and medicine entirely reject the idea that recognition of a person's gender should come only after surgery. This notion has also been significantly eroded in law and policy. Yet, with the exception of new laws and/or policies in three states, birth certificate statutes and policies have yet to be modernized in this respect. This Article explains why and how state, local, and territorial birth certificate laws and regulations ought to be revised based on changes in law and medicine. In addition, the Article discusses public policy factors that governments should consider when modernizing their policies, including the cost of various policies and the policies' legal and practical effects on the lives of transgender people.
Modernizing State Vital Statistics Statutes and Policies to Ensure Accurate Gender Markers on Birth Certificates: A Good Government Approach to Recognizing the Lives of Transgender People,
Mich. J. Gender & L.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mjgl/vol19/iss2/4