Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Requests to Change Sex Listed on Birth Certificates Questioned

An image of a birth certificate.

A Clark County woman argues Ohio law permits changes to birth certificate information, including sex markers.

An image of a birth certifcate.

A Clark County woman argues Ohio law permits changes to birth certificate information, including sex markers.

An Ohio law permits people born in the state to apply to a probate court to correct their birth certificates. In fall 2021, a woman applied to the Clark County Probate Court to correct the name and sex designation recorded on her birth certificate.

Hailey Adelaide told the court she was assigned as male at birth but started identifying as female as a young child. She requested the changes to her name and sex so her birth certificate aligned with her gender identity. The probate court approved Adelaide’s requested name correction but rejected the change to her sex marker.

Birth certificates contain details such as name, date and place of birth, sex, parents’ names, and their birthplaces. The document is used for verifying identity for a driver’s license, as a new employee, as a student registering at school, for government benefits, and more. When presenting a birth certificate with a sex marker that doesn’t represent their gender identity, transgender people note they are forced to reveal personal information they may not want to disclose.

The Clark County court concluded that a state law, R.C. 3705.15, doesn’t allow probate courts to make a sex marker correction unless the sex noted on the birth certificate was an error.

Adelaide appealed to the Second District Court of Appeals, which upheld the probate court decision. She appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio, which will hear the case next week at oral arguments.

One of the amicus briefs filed in the appeal notes that probate courts in 11 counties are holding decisions on birth certificate corrections until the Supreme Court rules in this case.

Woman Argues Statute Doesn’t Restrict Corrections
R.C. 3705.15 allows for corrections to a birth record that “has been lost or destroyed, or has not been properly and accurately recorded.” Adelaide argues that the language in the statute contains no limits on which birth certificate items can be corrected.

She also points to Ray v. McCloud, a 2020 federal court ruling in Ohio, which found that prohibiting transgender individuals from changing the sex markers on their birth certificates was unconstitutional. The case involved a 2016 Ohio Department of Health policy based on R.C. 3705.15 that barred sex marker changes. While the federal court ruling isn’t binding on the state courts, the Second District should have addressed the constitutional issues at the center of that ruling, Adelaide contends.

She notes that many people don’t fall into clear-cut “male” and “female” categories. A person’s sex is determined by more than the person’s external genitals, she maintains. Gender identity and neurological sex, for example, are part of one’s sex and may be discovered over time, necessitating changes to birth documents, she states.

Appeals Court Rules That Law Addresses Only Information Wrongly Recorded at Birth
In its decision, the Second District determined that the statute is for correcting errors made at the time a birth certificate was recorded. The Second District drew a distinction between corrections and amendments. It wrote that other statutes are for amending birth certificates, and amendments can be made based on the facts existing at the time of the request. But R.C. 3705.15 only permits people to correct information about the facts at the time of birth, the court stated. It ruled the General Assembly didn’t mean for R.C. 3705.15 to allow changes to the sex marker or any other required fact on a birth certificate.

The court also disagreed with Adelaide’s view of the federal court ruling. The Ray decision was about the constitutionality of the health department’s blanket policy against transgender people changing their sex marker, the Second District determined. It concluded that the federal court wasn’t considering the constitutionality of R.C. 3705.15 or the authority of Ohio probate courts to make changes to sex markers.

There is no appellee in the case, and no briefs were filed in support of the Second District opinion.

Numerous Organizations and Two Cities File Additional Arguments
TransOhio and 20 other Ohio groups submitted a joint amicus brief supporting Adelaide. The organizations argue the Second District “invented a distinction without a difference” between corrections and amendments. The terms are synonymous, the groups maintain. Also filed in support of Adelaide is an amicus brief from the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, Black and Pink National, and National Queer Asian and Pacific Islander Alliance. Citing several statistics, their brief maintains that inaccurate birth certificates expose transgender people to violence and physical harm. The groups also note that the American Medical Association recommended that the sex assigned at birth should be used for medical and statistical purposes only and shouldn’t appear publicly on birth certificates.

The cities of Cincinnati and Columbus also submitted arguments backing Adelaide. They express support for protecting the civil rights of all their residents and dispute that the lower courts are preserving the accuracy of the state’s vital records. “[I]t is impossible to square the pro-accuracy argument with the wide array of other alterations, all based on after the-fact developments, that state law allows for birth certificates,” their brief argues.

Watch Oral Arguments Online
The Court will hear In re application for correction of birth record of Adelaide and two other cases on April 4. The Court will consider three appeals on April 5. Oral arguments begin each day at 9 a.m. The arguments will be streamed live online at and broadcast live on the Ohio Channel, where they are archived.

Detailed case previews from the Court’s Office of Public Information are available by clicking on each case name.

Tuesday, April 4
Vacated Sentences
A Lorain County man wrecked his motorcycle and killed his girlfriend, who was his passenger. He was indicted on eight counts, including aggravated vehicular homicide and failure to comply with a police officer’s order. The man pleaded guilty to all charges. At his plea hearing , he wasn’t informed that his prison sentence for the failure to comply offense carried a requirement that it be served consecutively to any sentence for other charges. An appeals court vacated the two-year sentence for failure to comply. In State v. Tancak, the Court will consider whether the sentencing error entitles the offender to have his remaining seven-year prison sentence overturned.

Eminent Domain
In 2018, a park district approved the third phase of a 12-mile bicycle path on former railroad tracks in Mahoning County. The path would travel across private property, which the district could purchase or obtain by eminent domain. The district filed legal actions against property owners to take land, including 6 acres from a family farm, for the bike path. In Board of Commissioners of the Mill Creek Metropolitan Park District v. Less, the park district maintains that a state law authorized it to acquire the property for the conservation of natural resources, which a bike path does. The property owner counters that the law doesn’t permit using eminent domain for public transportation and recreational activities like a bike path.

Wednesday, April 5
Arbitration Appeals
The union representing Cleveland’s chief radio dispatchers filed a grievance against the city in 2019. The matter went to arbitration, and the city prevailed. The union applied to the common pleas court to vacate the arbitrator’s award, and it notified the city by sending notice to the city law department. The notice was fashioned as a legal complaint. The city successfully argued that the challenge had to be dismissed based on how the court challenge was initiated. In Ohio Patrolman’s Benevolent Association v. Cleveland, the Court will decide if the law required the challenge to be filed in the form of a motion, which includes more detail than a complaint, and if it needed to be served on the private attorney representing the city.

Competency Hearing Orders
In 2019, a Lucas County man was charged with crimes relating to shooting at a driver whose vehicle was stopped at an intersection. During pretrial proceedings, the man became increasingly difficult and disruptive. The trial court ordered a competency evaluation for the defendant , but he refused to leave his jail cell to undergo the assessment. The man insisted on going to trial, where he was convicted of all charges and sentenced to a maximum of 10.5 years in prison. In State v. Mills¸ the Court will consider whether the appeals court should vacate the sentence and order a competency hearing if there is any doubt that the man wasn’t competent to stand trial.

Sex Offender Registration
A man was convicted in 2008 in Hamilton County of attempted voyeurism and classified as a sex offender. He registered as a sex offender in Kentucky, where he lived. In 2019, he asked the Hamilton County court to terminate his registration duties since he had registered for the time required. In State v. Schilling, the parties agree that the trial court imposed the incorrect Ohio sex offender law. The county prosecutor argues the error didn’t need to be appealed because a Supreme Court of Ohio ruling meant the offender’s classification automatically switched to the correct classification. The offender responds that under the correct sex offender classification, he has completed his registration duties. The prosecutor and offender also disagree over whether he could register in Kentucky for his crime in Ohio.