OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed a bill into law Tuesday that explicitly bans the use of non-binary gender markers on state birth certificates, a ban experts say is the first of its kind. in the nation.
The bill followed a flip last year over the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s settlement in a civil case allowing a non-binary option. The birth certificate in that case was issued to an Oklahoma-born Oregonian who filed a lawsuit after the agency initially denied the application. People who are not binary do not identify with traditional male or female gender assignments.
News of the deal sparked outrage from Republicans, including Stitt, who along with other conservatives in several GOP-led states have engaged in a culture war over issues like restricting LGBTQ and abortion rights that drive the base. of the party in an election year. Stitt’s appointee to head the agency abruptly resigned the next day, and the governor immediately issued a executive order prohibit any change in a person’s gender on birth certificates, despite the settlement agreement. A civil rights group challenged the executive order in federal court, but the state has yet to respond.
Many states only offer male or female gender options on birth certificates, but Oklahoma is the first to enact the non-binary ban into law, according to Lambda Legal, the civil rights group that is suing Oklahoma.
Several states allow non-binary gender designations
Currently, 15 states and the District of Columbia specifically allow a gender marker designation other than male or female, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality. That number will increase on July 1 when Vermont’s new statute takes effect.
“People are free to believe what they want about their identity, but science has determined that people are biologically male or female at birth,” said Oklahoma Rep. Sheila Dills, a House sponsor of the bill, in a statement after the bill was passed. House last week. “We want clarity and truth in official state documents. The information must be based on established medical facts and not on an ever-changing social dialogue.”
In 2020, Oklahomans elected the nation’s first openly non-binary lawmaker, Oklahoma City Democratic Rep. Mauree Turner, who said it was painful for her colleagues to single out those who are gender diverse.
“Seems to me like a very extreme and grotesque use of power in this body to write this law and try to pass it, when literally none of them live like we do,” Turner tweeted the day the bill was debated.
Republicans in conservative states across the country have introduced several bills this year targeting transgender and non-binary people. Earlier this year, the governor of Oklahoma signed a bill banning transgender girls from playing on women’s sports teams, one of many bans that have been signed into law across the country. Other conservative states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas, have passed laws banning gender confirmation treatments for minors.
The US Department of State recently announced that it had issued its first passport with an “X” gender designation, marking a milestone in recognizing the rights of people who do not identify as male or female, and hopes to offer the option more widely next year.
Doctors and scientists say that sex and gender are not the same thing. While sex generally refers to anatomy, gender identity is more of an internal sense of being male, female, or something in between, regardless of physical anatomy, according to Dr. Jason Rafferty, a pediatrician and child psychiatrist at Hasbro Children’s Hospital. in Rhode Island and a leading author on transgender policy for the American Academy of Pediatrics.