Q-Legal: Big news for transgender community

We use the acronym “LGBT” to identify lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals as a community of people with common issues and concerns. But within that group, many transgender issues are unique – and can be highly complicated, requiring a level of legal and emotional support beyond that of most LGB persons. Here are some current items of interest:

Recent Ruling – Transgender People Are Protected From Workplace Discrimination.

In the case of Mia Macy, who was denied a job simply because she is transgender, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled that transgender people are protected from workplace discrimination under Title VII. This will have a life-changing impact for many transgender people, who can now be assured that the federal government recognizes their right to work. The case was handled by the Transgender Law Center, a San Francisco organization devoted to expanding transgender rights nationwide.

Discrimination In Housing, Public Places And Schools. Thirteen states (including California), and the District of Columbia have laws protecting transgender people in most instances, and over 100 cities also have laws against gender identity or gender expression discrimination. Other states and cities offer little or no protection against discrimination in these areas.

Use Of Restrooms – Often A Challenge. Laws are non-existent or inconsistent on a transgender person’s right to use the restroom appropriate to his or her gender identity.

Few courts have considered this issue, and rulings that have come down have been decided both ways. As more businesses and public places provide unisex restrooms, transgender people will find it much easier to access restrooms wherever they are.

Changing Name And Gender On Birth Certificates. States issue birth certificates, and each state has different rules for making changes. What happens when one’s gender changes? Currently, all states, except Idaho, Ohio and Tennessee have a process for amending or issuing a new birth certificate to people who have undergone gender reassignment. The U.S. Department of State has a similar process for U.S. citizens who were born outside the country.

A letter from the surgeon who performed the sex reassignment surgery, or a court order acknowledging the gender reassignment, a court order for the name change, and a copy of the original birth certificate must be submitted to the state agency handling vital statistics. A new or amended birth certificate with the new gender and name will be issued. The old birth certificates may be “closed,” “sealed,” or “impounded,” which means they will no longer be available to the public (except by court order, in some instances).

Marriage Can Be A Complicated Issue. If one spouse transitions, is the couple still legally married? Yes, they remain married until there is a divorce or annulment. If they remain married, there may be problems getting benefits such as health coverage, death benefits if one dies, or inheritances.

If a post-transition person wants to marry a person of a different sex, it may or may not be possible. Some states base approval of marriage only on chromosomal or birth-assigned sex. Others, including California, Maryland and New Jersey, do permit it – ruling that the post-transition sex determines if the marriage is valid. In states where same-sex couples can marry, there is no problem for transgender persons.

Transgender Parents – Relationships And Legal Status Aren’t Always Easy. The parental rights of individuals who have transitioned are sometimes challenged. Judges and adoption agencies are not always understanding of the motivation for gender change, and may have misperceptions and prejudices that can lead to questions of suitability as a parent. They may try to stop transgender adults from bringing children into their lives or even to remove them from their homes.

For the children themselves, most have little trouble adapting to a parent’s transition. It is likely that adolescents may find it more difficult than younger or older children. If custody is disputed in court, most courts base rulings on the best interests of the children. When courts focus on parenting skills and other factors that support a child’s health and growth, many courts find the transgender parent capable and loving, and find no reason to limit or remove visitation or custody.

This article is part of an ongoing series of articles pertaining to legal issues relevant to the LGBT community, and is intended for general information purposes only – not legal advice. Christopher Heritage is an attorney in Palm Springs, and San Diego, CA, who focuses on LGBT estate planning, domestic partnerships, same-sex marriage, probate, trust administration, and bankruptcy. He welcomes questions and comments, and can be contacted at 760.325.2020, or by email: chris@heritagelegal.com

This article originally appeared HERE.

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