NewsLocal News


OK ban on birth certificate gender change may violate constitution, court says

Posted at 10:12 PM, Jun 20, 2024

OKLAHOMA CITY — A federal appeals court ruled Oklahoma may be violating the U.S. Constitution with an executive order banning anyone from changing their gender on their birth certificate.

A New York civil rights group filed the lawsuit in 2023 on behalf of three transgender Oklahomans.

The three plaintiffs claim the rule caused issues with buying homes, getting credit cards, and receiving tribal benefits. They argued the policy violates equal protection rights because it unlawfully discriminates based on transgender status and sex.

They're asking for a declaration the order violates the Constitution, an order allowing them to make the change on their own, and an order ensuring anyone in Oklahoma can change their birth certificates to match their identity.

Since at least 2007, Oklahomans have been allowed to change their gender on their birth certificates.

In 2021, Governor Kevin Stitt issued an executive order banning the Oklahoma State Department of Health from allowing gender changes on birth certificates. He made this order shortly after learning an Oklahoman got an amended birth certificate with a gender-neutral sex designation.

“I believe that people are created by God to be male or female. Period," Stitt said in 2021. “There is no such thing as non-binary sex, and I wholeheartedly condemn the OSDH court settlement that was entered into by rogue activists who acted without receiving proper approval or oversight.”

The ban on changing a person's gender identity on their birth certificate is causing issues, the plaintiffs claim, because they're still able to change their gender on their Driver's License, social security, federal health insurance marketplace, and more.

This leads to a discrepancy, forcing them to disclose often their transgender identity in situations where they otherwise wouldn't.

The state's lawyers argued the policy is needed to ensure the accuracy of vital records, protect women's interests, prevent fraud, and conserve state resources.

The majority opinion found those arguments don't stand, and the plaintiffs made a legitimate case.

The conclusion said the state still has access to original birth certificates, so a change wouldn't affect vital records. It also stated the defendants didn't prove how allowing these changes impacts state resources.

The court said the policy could actually create instances of fraud instead of preventing it because people will have conflicting documents for the same person with different genders.

As for protecting women's interests, the state argued the policy ensures people assigned male at birth from competing in women's sports.

The court said the state already enforces the ban on people assigned male at birth from competing in women's sports using affidavits — not birth certificates. Therefore, the argument is not rationally related to the policy.

However, one judge partially disagreed with these conclusions.

"The sex discrimination issue in this case is a difficult one," said Judge Hartz. "But I must respectfully dissent. Perhaps one day we get clarification from the Supreme Court."

The case is now headed back to the Northern District of Oklahoma in Tulsa.

Oklahoma is one of three states that has a ban on changing one's gender identity on their birth certificate.

Stay in touch with us anytime, anywhere --