The Florida Department of Health has asked a judge to decide whether a state law that allows it to change the gender on a birth certificate applies in the case of a transgender teenager from Broward County who received court approval to change both his name and gender.
“This particular request presents an unprecedented issue for the department,” wrote DOH lawyer Nichole Geary in a petition filed Tuesday in the Second Judicial Circuit Court in Leon County.
The parents of the unnamed 14-year-old asked a Broward court earlier this year to allow the name and birth certificate change for their transgender son. The child’s birth certificate identifies him as female, but his parents say the youth identifies himself as male and wishes to live his life with a male name and male characteristics.
A Broward judge ordered the name change and added a handwritten note ordering the agency “to change the gender identifier for the child,” Geary said in the petition. The judge also sealed the record.
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But rather than issue a new birth certificate, the Department of Health, which oversees Vital Statistics, instead now wants the court to decide whether the agency has the authority under the name-change proceeding to also revise the birth certificate.
State law allows the department to change the gender on a birth certificate if there is documentary evidence of “any misstatement, error or omission.”
The agency believes that it cannot revise the teen’s birth certificate because “there is no process in place to change the gender on a birth certificate for a minor in the state of Florida that is not a misstatement, error or omission occurring at birth,” said Mara Gambineri, DOH spokesperson.
But the child’s parents disagree. They “have threatened legal action against the department in the event it fails to comply with their request,” Geary told the court.
“The department has no record of these specific types of changes,” Geary wrote. She said DOH filed the declaratory judgment “to ensure the department is acting pursuant to its authority under Florida law.”
Geary originally filed the petition naming the child and his parents and had the record sealed, under a rule that allows the record to be sealed temporarily for 10 days.
During a court hearing Friday, Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers ordered the agency to re-file the request using a generic name for the boy and his parents so that the record could be open to the public.
Gievers also appointed Miami lawyer Richard Milstein to serve as the child’s guardian ad litem during the proceedings and “to address the best interests of the child regarding the confidentiality issue.” John Rosenquest, attorney for the family, told Gievers that the parents “have spoken with their child” and want the case and the hearing “not shielded from the Sunshine laws or a public record.”
A hearing on the issue is expected soon.
Staff writer Carol Marbin Miller contributed to this report.
Mary Ellen Klas is Tallahassee bureau chief. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @MaryEllenKlas.