Clinic Students Help Clear Path for Transgender Individuals to Marry In New York City

Three Former Students in Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic Directed by Professor Suzanne Goldberg Helped Spur Change in Policy

Public Affairs, 212-854-2650,
New York, March 9, 2011—A new policy in New York City that removes potential roadblocks for transgender individuals who apply for marriage licenses was spurred by the work of three former students at Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic.
The new policy will ensure that transgender individuals who apply for marriage licenses will not be required to provide any additional proof of their sex beyond that which is required of any other person who seeks a license from the city’s Marriage Bureau.
In collaboration with lawyers at the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, Donna Azoulay ‘10, Jeannie Chung ‘10, and Jantira Supawong ‘10, drafted a memorandum that said denying transgender people equal access to marriage licenses lacked a rational basis, was arbitrary and capricious, impermissibly burdened the fundamental right to marry, and violated the New York City Human Rights Law and the Equal Protection Clause of the state and federal constitutions.
“We applaud the City for taking this step,” said Professor Suzanne Goldberg, the clinic’s director. “City clerks can no longer consider gender stereotypes or preconceived notions about gender expression, such as an applicant’s physical appearance, dress, behavior, or name, when deciding whether to issue a marriage license.”
Under the new policy, the city shall issue a marriage license as long as the sex listed on the identity document matches the applicant’s sex as indicated on the marriage application.
The policy was adopted in response to advocacy by TLDEF on behalf of a transgender woman and a transgender man who were denied a marriage license despite the fact that they had fulfilled all the requirements for receiving a marriage license and had presented proper identification. The City Clerk had required the couple to produce birth certificates even though this was not required of other marriage-license applicants. 
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