Notes on the Journey

Legal Matters


Lawyers ask to dismiss lawsuit challenging state’s transgender policy

 “Lawyers ask to dismiss lawsuit challenging state’s transgender policy”
by Arielle Zionts, Rapid City Journal staff Jan 15, 2019 

Lawyers for a transgender man from Hermosa who died in December have asked a federal court to dismiss his discrimination lawsuit against the state of South Dakota and the director of human resources. 

“In moving to dismiss this suit, (Terri Bruce’s) family and counsel would like to raise awareness of the high rate of suicide among transgender individuals as well as the obstacles transgender citizens must constantly overcome to feel safe and respected within their communities,” Bruce’s lawyers wrote in a Jan. 14 motion. 

Bruce took his own life on Dec. 2. He was 55. 

An employee with the state Archaeological Research Center in Rapid City, Bruce sued the state and Laurie Gill, commissioner of Human Resources, in 2017. He said his rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were being violated and that the state’s health insurance policy, which denies coverage of transgender-related care, “deprives transgender employees of equal treatment.” 

In May 2016, the company that manages the state employee health insurance plan, Health Management Partners, denied pre-authorization for Bruce’s mastectomy (breast removal), a procedure a Rapid City doctor described as “medically necessary.”

In the motion, Bruce’s lawyers — James Leach of Rapid City and attorneys with the South Dakota and national American Civil Liberties Union — described Bruce as a “gifted archaeologist, a passionate activist, and a warm and caring friend.”

Bruce “was experienced at meeting such biases head on” by taking action when he encountered discrimination in school, at the Legislature and with the state health-care policy, the motion says.

The lawyers also shared statistics and research about discrimination against trans people and suicide rates in the community. Of the more than 1.4 million trans people in the United States, the motion says, 41 percent have attempted suicide at least once, a rate 25 times higher than the general population. 

“Statistics such as these serve as a stark reminder of the life and death consequences of laws and policies which demean the transgender community and seek to deprive them of basic dignity and respect. While this lawsuit is now coming to an end, these important issues will survive this case,” the lawyers wrote. 

Jerry Johnson, the lawyer representing South Dakota, and Gill responded on Jan. 15 that it agrees the lawsuit should be dismissed. 

But he clarified that agreeing with the dismissal doesn’t mean his clients agree with what Bruce’s lawyers wrote about Bruce and the harassment and suicide risk of trans people. 

“On the other hand, defendants’ agreement that this case should be dismissed as a result of the death of Terri Bruce should not be taken as any agreement by defendants regarding the statements in the motion which are not necessary to support the dismissal of this case,” Johnson wrote. •

The article also includes a photo of Terri Bruce (who imo reads as butch/female). I find it weird her lawyers would ask for the lawsuit to be dropped; maybe it’s a money issue and they’re not willing to follow through pro bono.


Bill would make it easier for transgender people to change birth certificates


CONCORD — New Hampshire’s first transgender state representatives, Democrats Lisa Bunker of Exeter and Gerri Cannon of Somersworth, were in Representative’s Hall on Thursday, but not for a House session.

They were there to support House Bill 446, which would make it easier for transgender people to get a new birth certificate without having to obtain a court order.

The bill states, “If an individual requests a birth certificate reflecting a sex other than that which was assigned at birth, a new birth record shall be prepared to reflect a change in the individual’s sex upon receipt of a certification affirming the individual’s gender identity by a licensed and qualified health care provider.”


“I am a proud transgender person and I have used that mechanism to have my gender information changed on my birth certificate in Massachusetts, which allows me to do that using a form from my doctor,” Cannon told members of the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee in a public hearing moved to the larger venue.

“Here in New Hampshire, an individual can change information on their birth certificate through a court order, and that’s the process people go through, but it’s not an easy process,” she said.

She described a situation in which the mother of a transgender teen got the judge’s order she thought was necessary, only to have it rejected by a town clerk, after which the judge refused to modify his order.

“They are between a rock and hard place,” she said.

Jeanne Hruska, political director for the ACLU-NH, also urged committee members to endorse the bill.

“Any surgical requirement fundamentally misunderstands what it means to be transgender,” she said. “A transgender person does not undergo a sex change, whether by surgical or other means. Transgender people bring the outward expression of their gender into alignment with who they have always been.”

Hruska pointed out that the American Medical Association has adopted a policy urging states to eliminate any requirement that transgender people have surgery in order to amend their birth certificates.


The conservative policy group Cornerstone submitted testimony urging the committee to recommend against the bill, calling it a “threat to vital records.”

“The current effort to rewrite our laws to replace sex with gender identity does not change the government’s need for accurate information,” according to Cornerstone.

“We can show tolerance and respect for those who identify as a different gender while still maintaining factual data that helps our government identify and solve health and safety threats.”

Rep. Jess Edwards, R-Auburn, testified that there are “good public policy reasons” to have medical records changed “pursuant to a change in an individual’s gender,” but, he added, the old records should not be destroyed and the new record should not be called a birth certificate.

“The major principle that needs addressing is the concept that medical records should not be deleted for the purpose of replacement,” he said. “The bill implies that the original live birth certificate be destroyed and replaced with a new document also referred to as a birth certificate.”

“Historically, the sex at birth is still the sex at birth,” he said.

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