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You Can't Take It With You: Constitutional Consequences of Gender Identity Rulings
Washington Law Review (2005)
  • Marybeth Herald, Thomas Jefferson School of Law
  • Julie Greenberg

Contradictory approaches to defining male and female can create bizarre and confusing results as transsex persons cross state lines and find that their legal sex changes according to the laws of a given jurisdiction. Recent U.S. decisions establishing a person's legal sex have adopted a kaleidoscope of approaches that range from the absurd (a man must be able to fertilize ovum and beget offspring, while women must produce ova and bear offspring), to the religious (gender is immutably fixed by our Creator at birth), to the scientific (gender itself is a fact that may be established by medical and other evidence). Under current laws and state court rulings, a male-to-female transsex person is legally a woman in approximately one-half of the states and legally a man in the other one-half of the states. This article discusses the constitutional implications of the varied approaches to determining a person's legal sex. It concludes that states that refuse to recognize an amended birth certificate from a sister state violate principles of full faith and credit and unconstitutionally infringe upon the right to travel under the dormant Commerce Clause. In addition, when states impose sex tests that are based on gender stereotypes and force people to live as the sex that conflicts with their self-identified sex, they violate the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection and substantive due process mandates.

  • gender,
  • sex,
  • constitutional law,
  • transsexuality,
  • marriage,
  • civil rights
Publication Date
November, 2005
Citation Information
Marybeth Herald and Julie Greenberg. "You Can't Take It With You: Constitutional Consequences of Gender Identity Rulings" Washington Law Review Vol. 80 (2005)
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