Wyo. High Court to Consider Gender Change On Birth Certificates
The Wyoming Supreme Court will decide whether transgender residents can change their sex on their birth certificates.
According to briefs filed with the state's high court, the case is an appeal stemming from a Laramie County District Court decision in September to deny a petition in which a woman sought to have the gender on her birth certificate changed from male to female.
The woman's name is being withheld to protect her privacy. She is instead identified as MH in the court filings.
According to those filings, MH was born in 1994 and assigned a male gender on her birth certificate, but has been receiving professional treatment for her transition.
"She has been treated and counseled by competent medical and psychological experts to assist her transition. Appellant has been receiving medical treatment for her transition since September 2016," a brief says. "She has also been receiving counseling and therapy as part of an on-going program since February 2017."
While living in Albany County, MH filed a petition in Albany County District Court to change her name from her birth name to her current name. The petition was finalized in February 2017. The decree also stated her gender was changed for all legal purposes from male to female.
But, MH submitted that order to the Wyoming Department of Health which was rejected. MH submitted a petition to the district court in Albany County asking for a new birth certificate.
Instead, the district court ruled that it had "inadvertently and incorrectly ordered a change of petitioner's gender and sex from male to female."
The court also stated Wyoming law only applies to name changes and not gender.
In April 2019 MH, now a resident of Laramie County, filed a petition in district court there arguing that the court had the authority to order her gender be changed on her birth certificate. The district court denied that petition.
MH's appeal was docketed in the Wyoming Supreme Court in November. In that appeal, her attorneys argue that the district court does, in fact, have the authority to issue an order to have her gender changed on her birth certificate.
"The District Court erred, when it concluded in effect that it could not exercise jurisdiction absent a statute expressly conferring jurisdiction on district courts to consider petitions requesting changes to a birth certificate," MH's attorneys argue. "The conclusion is contrary to well-established law."
The Wyoming Attorney General's Office is representing the district court in the appeal. In their briefs, the attorney general's office argues that the district court was correct in asserting that it does not have the legal mechanism to change vital statistics on a birth certificate.
In their brief, the Attorney General's Office contends that state law says the Wyoming Department of Health can only amend the names of people on birth certificates.
The Wyoming Supreme Court was initially set to hear arguments in the case earlier this month. However, due to concerns over the COVID-19 outbreak, the court will now base is ruling off of briefs filed in the case.
That ruling will be issued in written form.