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Victory! New York City Adopts Policy Ensuring Transgender People Equal Access to Marriage Licenses
We are happy to announce that the city of New York has adopted a new policy designed to ensure that transgender people have equal access to marriage licenses. The policy was adopted as part of an agreement to resolve threatened legal action involving a transgender couple. The couple wishes to remain private and we refer to them as Jane and John.
Jane and John are both transgender. They are an opposite-sex couple who have been in a relationship for over a decade. In Dec. 2009, they attempted to marry in the Bronx. They fulfilled all of the requirements for receiving a marriage license in New York City and presented their government-issued photo identification – the only identification required by the City Clerk’s office. Rather than issuing the marriage license, the City Clerk refused and instead demanded that Jane and John produce their birth certificates before they could be married – something not required of other marriage license applicants.
Under the terms of the new policy, issued on Feb. 7, 2011, once a marriage license applicant produces the required photo ID, the City Clerk may not request additional proof of sex. Moreover, City Clerk employees are forbidden from considering the applicant's appearance or preconceived notions related to gender expression when deciding whether to issue a marriage license.
“Transgender people are challenged all the time about their status as men and women,” said TLDEF executive director Michael Silverman. “Our clients are legally entitled to marry and were denied that right just because they are transgender. We applaud the City Clerk’s office for adopting this policy and for taking steps to ensure that this does not happen again.”
In addition to the adoption of the new policy, the agreement to resolve the couple’s claims calls for the City Clerk to apologize to Jane and John, to institute training for all City Clerk employees on issues relating to gender identity and gender expression, and to ensure that Jane and John are free to marry at a time and place of their choosing.
In addition to TLDEF, the legal team on this matter included Carmine Boccuzzi, David Brown and Nathan Horst of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. We are grateful for their assistance.
Thank you for your support of our work. We will continue to update you on this and other case developments.