State LGBT Rights Policy Outliers: Transsexual Birth Certificate Amendment Laws


  • Jami K. Taylor Assistant Professor of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of Toldedo, Toledo, Ohio
  • Barry L. Tadlock Associate Professor of the Department of Political Science at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio
  • Sarah Poggione Associate Professor of the Department of Political Science at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio



This paper explores an anomaly in gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights policy, laws allowing transsexual individuals to amend their birth certificates. Unlike most other LGBT rights policies, these statutes are often found in Southern and other conservative states. In fact, these laws are found in half of the Southern states. The array of states with these laws does not conform to the traditional pattern of morality politics laws that is commonly associated with LGBT rights. Using a Cox non-proportional hazards model, we find that the adoption of these laws was influenced by vertical diffusion of the Centers for Disease Control's model vital records recommendations. States with more professionalized bureaucracies, like Virginia and Georgia, were more likely to implement these recommended best practices. However, as transgender rights became more closely associated with the gay rights advocacy movement, this issue likely resembles morality policy. The result being that liberal and conservative elites respond to these policies in predictable manners. Notably, the political opportunity structure in Southern states has not allowed the passage of this type of statute since the incorporation of transgender rights into the LGBT social movement during the mid-1990s.


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