In re Adelaide, 2022-CA-1

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
Writing for the CourtLEWIS, J.
Citation2022 Ohio 2053
Decision Date17 June 2022
Docket Number2022-CA-1
PartiesIN RE: APPLICATION FOR CORRECTION OF BIRTH RECORD OF HAILEY EMMELINE ADELAIDE

2022-Ohio-2053

IN RE: APPLICATION FOR CORRECTION OF BIRTH RECORD OF HAILEY EMMELINE ADELAIDE

No. 2022-CA-1

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Clark

June 17, 2022


Appeal from Common Pleas Court - Probate Division Trial Court Case No. 20219090

MAYA SIMEK, Atty. Reg. No. 0086674, and CHAD M. EGGSPUEHLER, Atty. Reg. No. 0094094 & DANIELLE M. EASTON, Atty. Reg. No. 0099591, Attorneys for Plaintiff-Appellant

OPINION

LEWIS, J.

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{¶ 1} Plaintiff-Appellant Hailey Emmeline Adelaide appeals from a decision of the Clark County Common Pleas Court, Probate Division, denying her application to change the sex marker on her[1] birth certificate. For the reasons that follow, the judgment of the probate court is affirmed.

I. Facts and Procedural History

{¶ 2} Adelaide was born in 1973 in Clark County, Ohio. The birth certificate identified Adelaide as Brian Edward Deboard and the sex marker was checked as male. In September 2021, Adelaide filed an application in the Clark County Probate Court for a change of name from Brian Edward Deboard to Hailey Emmeline Adelaide pursuant to R.C. 2717.02. The following month, Adelaide filed an application in a second case for correction of her birth record pursuant to R.C. 3705.15, asking to change the sex marker designation on her birth certificate from male to female. Included with the application was an affidavit from Adelaide and a copy of a notarized affidavit from William Ford, Adelaide's mental health care provider. Both affidavits were completed on the Supreme Court of Ohio Form 30.0 application for correction of birth record. Adelaide filed a brief in support of the correction application.

{¶ 3} The two cases were consolidated for a hearing, which was held on November 15, 2021. Adelaide presented her own testimony along with a copy of an unfiled but completed Form 30.0, which mostly mirrored the original application, but included the request for both the sex marker change and the name change. She also submitted a

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copy of a letter signed by William Ford, a clinical intern, and Dr. John P. Layh, a clinical psychologist supervisor. The letter stated that it was written "[i]n support of the sexual identity validity of Ms. Hailey Deboard, I find her to be consistent in mental competency exhibiting true authenticity both in self-awareness and introspection. I, William H. Ford, Sr., MRC, acknowledge and attest to the sexual identity of Ms. Hailey DeBoard (sic) as 'female' both psychologically and in lifestyle gender expression."

{¶ 4} Adelaide testified she was born in 1973 at the Clark County Community Hospital in Clark County, Ohio, and had resided in that county most of her life. She was born with biologically male anatomy but began believing she was a female at the age of four years old. Adelaide currently identifies as female. She came out in July 2020 and had been seeing her mental health therapist, Bill Ford, for almost a year. She testified that she believed there was an error on her birth certificate when her sex marker was checked off as male, because the male sex marker did not take into account her mental state.

{¶ 5} At the conclusion of the hearing, the probate court orally granted Adelaide's application for a change of name but withheld a decision on her application for a correction of her sex marker. After the hearing, Adelaide filed a brief in support of her application to correct the sex marker, in which she stressed the importance of Ray v. McCloud, 507 F.Supp.3d 925 (S.D.Ohio 2020).

{¶ 6} On December 2, 2021, the probate court issued a written decision denying Adelaide's request to correct the sex marker. In addressing the case of Ray v. McCloud, the probate court concluded that the case did not address the authority of the Ohio

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probate courts to issue the order requested. The probate court stated that the "sole question before this Court is whether or not this Court enjoys the statutory authority to permit it to order such a change." Decision at p. 2. The court rejected Adelaide's arguments that the word "sex" and the phrase "has not been properly and accurately recorded" were ambiguous and instead applied the plain meaning of R.C. 3705.15. Unlike other statutes that allow the probate court to change information on one's birth certificate due to changes that occur in life, such as the person's name or parent's names after adoption, the probate court found that nothing in R.C. 3705.15 specifically granted the probate court authority to issue a change of the sex marker, unless it was originally made in error. Because the initial recording of Adelaide's male sex marker at birth correctly noted that she was born with biologically male anatomy, and her current physical anatomy supported the determination of male on the sex marker of her birth certificate, the probate court found there was nothing to be corrected pursuant to R.C. 3705.15.

{¶ 7} This appeal timely followed.

II. Assignments of Error

{¶ 8} Adelaide raises the following two assignments of error:

THE PROBATE COURT ERRED AS A MATTER OF LAW BECAUSE ITS ORDER DENYING THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE CORRECTION FAILED TO GIVE DUE RESPECT TO THE CONSTITUTIONAL RULINGS IN RAY II, THE PRINCIPLES OF WHICH ARE RECOGNIZED BY OHIO COURTS AND SHOULD HAVE CONTROLLED HERE
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THE PROBATE COURT ERRED AS A MATTER OF LAW BECAUSE ITS ORDER DENYING THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE CORRECTION IN THE FACE OF UNDISPUTED FACTS RESTED ON A RESTRICTIVE INTERPRETATION OF R.C. 3705.15 THAT ADDED LIMITS NOT CONTAINED IN THE TEXT.

{¶ 9} In her assignments of error, Adelaide argues that the probate court failed to give due weight to the constitutional rulings identified in Ray v. McCloud, 507 F.Supp.3d 925, which she contends required a broad reading of the applicable statutory language. She also challenges the probate court's determination that R.C. 3705.15 did not authorize the court to change Adelaide's sex marker on her birth certificate based on the statutory language. Both of the assignments of error present arguments relating to the statutory interpretation of R.C. 3705.15. As a result, we will address the assignments of error together.

III. Standard of Review

{¶ 10} Generally, an appellate court reviews a denial of an application pursuant to R.C. 3705.15 for an abuse of discretion. In re Application for Correction of Birth Record of Lopez, 5th Dist. Tuscarawas No. 2004-AP-06 0046, 2004-Ohio-7305, ¶ 29, citing In re Hall, 135 Ohio App.3d 1, 732 N.E.2d 1004 (4th Dist.). However, Adelaide challenges the probate court's refusal to grant her relief on the grounds that it lacked authority to act based on the language of the statute. This challenge presents a question of law that we review de novo. State v. Jeffries, 160 Ohio St.3d 300, 2020-Ohio-1539, 156 N.E.3d 859, ¶ 15.

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IV. Probate Court

{¶ 11} "It is a well-settled principle of law that probate courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and are permitted to exercise only the authority granted to them by statute and by the Ohio Constitution." In re Guardianship of Hollins, 114 Ohio St.3d 434, 2007-Ohio-4555, 872 N.E.2d 1214, ¶ 11, citing Corron v. Corron, 40 Ohio St.3d 75, 77, 531 N.E.2d 708 (1988). R.C. 2101.24(A)(1) identifies which subject matter areas are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the probate court. R.C. 2101.24(A)(2) provides that, in addition to the specific areas enumerated under the exclusive jurisdiction of the probate court, the probate court shall also have exclusive jurisdiction over a particular subject matter if both the following apply:

(a) Another section of the Revised Code expressly confers jurisdiction over that subject matter upon the probate court.
(b) No section of the Revised Code expressly confers jurisdiction over that subject matter upon any other court or agency.

{¶ 12} R.C. 3705.15 expressly confers jurisdiction on the probate court to correct birth records. The procedure for correcting birth records is controlled by R.C. 3705.15(A), which reads, in pertinent part, as follows:

Whoever claims to have been born in this state, and whose registration of birth is not recorded, or has been lost or destroyed, or has not been properly and accurately recorded, may file an application for registration of birth or correction of the birth record in the probate court of the county of the person's birth or residence[.] * * *
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(A) An application to correct a birth record shall set forth all of the available facts required on a birth record and the reasons for making the application, and shall be verified by the applicant. * * * The application shall be supported by the affidavit of the physician or certified nurse-midwife in attendance. If an affidavit is not available, the application shall be supported by the affidavits of at least two persons having knowledge of the facts stated in the application, by documentary evidence, or by other evidence the court deems sufficient.
The probate judge, if satisfied that the facts are as stated, shall make an order correcting the birth record[.]

V. Analysis

{¶ 13} The question before this Court is whether the probate court had the authority under R.C. 3705.15(A) to change the sex marker on a birth certificate where an individual was identified as one sex at birth but later identifies as the other. Adelaide contends that the statute should be interpreted broadly to...

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