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Transgender St. Pete woman sues to have sex changed on birth certificate

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

A St. Petersburg transgender woman wants to have her birth certificate changed to reflect her identity as a woman. Brandi Michele Branson, known previously as Michael Leslie Branson, underwent gender reassignment surgery in September.

According to a lawsuit filed in Pinellas County court, Branson’s birth certificate is on file in Missouri. The state successfully changed her name on the birth record in 2011. Now they allegedly don’t have a problem with also changing the sex, however, state law requires an order from the court to do so. That is what Branson now seeks.

It’s not clear what the legal precedent is for getting a court order in one state to change a birth certificate in another, however, Florida law does allow post-operative transgender individuals to change their sex on a birth certificate.

According to the website TransEquity, “to apply for an amended birth certificate, the applicant must submit an application and affidavit to amend the certificate, an affidavit from the physician stating that you completed sex reassignment in accordance with the appropriate medical procedures, and payment of the amendment fee.”

This isn’t the first time Branson has taken action to further the rights of transgender men and women. She was the subject of a lawsuit that gained national media coverage in 2014. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Branson’s former place of employment, the Lakeland Eye Clinic, for discrimination against Branson for being transgender.

Branson reportedly began work at the clinic still presenting as a man, but later began dressing as a woman. Branson claims other employees snickered at her and she was ultimately fired. Branson was eventually awarded $150,000 in that case.

And last year, when the Florida Legislature considered the so-called bathroom bill, or ID to Pee to critics, Branson again spoke out against the injustice. The failed legislation would have required transgender individuals to use bathrooms designated for the sex of which they were assigned at birth unless they had identification proving their new sex.

Despite Branson’s $150,000 settlement, she lives in a low-income housing facility for seniors and was approved as indigent by the court in her recent filing. It’s unclear what happened to that settlement money or whether it has been distributed.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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