Broward County

Florida done fighting teen’s effort to change F to M on birth record

Circuit Judge Karen Gievers
Circuit Judge Karen Gievers

Florida health administrators say they will comply with a judge’s order to amend the birth certificate of a transgender teen from Broward County.

Last week, Leon Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ordered the state Department of Health to change the gender marker on a 15-year-old’s birth certificate from “female” to “male.” A judge in Broward County had issued the same order last year, but health administrators asked Gievers to affirm that the agency has the authority to make such a change.

“This is unprecedented in Florida as we have not had a case like this involving a child, a DOH spokeswoman, Mara Gambineri, told the Miami Herald in an email late Friday. “The department is always cautious in decisions involving children when the law is not clear, which is why DOH asked the court for guidance. Pursuant to the court’s order, we will issue the amended birth certificate.”

Health administrators amend birth certificates to change the names of transgender adults and children. The agency has amended the so-called “gender marker” — or, the box that designates a person’s sex — of adults who have transitioned from one gender to the other. But DOH had until now refused to amend a minor’s gender marker, saying such a change can only be made following gender reassignment surgery, a procedure doctors are extremely reluctant to perform upon youth.

Gievers’ order, and the health department’s decision to comply with it, settles a yearlong dispute between the teen’s family and DOH, which had refused to issue the amended certificate despite a Broward court order. The Herald has not named the family, as both Gievers and the Broward judge, Renee Goldenberg, ordered that the teen’s identity remain confidential.

The family’s lawyer, John B. “Jay” Rosenquest IV, said they were delighted that they would not have to appeal the case further. “But they are especially pleased for other families with transgender children that the Department of Health has accepted the rulings of two courts and the law is now clear in Florida that the [DOH} has the full authority to amend the gender marker on a transgender minor’s birth certificate without first requiring irreversible sexual reassignment surgery, when it is in the best interest of the child.”

Rosenquest said he was aware of at least one other child who had received a court order to amend a gender marker — an order the DOH also had declined to honor. In that case, the family chose not to “push back.”

“What makes this case unprecedented is that the state actively sought to avoid complying with the court order, first by unsuccessfully seeking to vacate it in the Broward court, and then by filing the declaratory judgment case in Leon County that Judge Gievers dismissed this week.”