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Montana takes on new rule restricting change of sex on birth certificates

New rule restricts sex change on birth certificates in Montana
New rule restricts sex change on birth certificates in Montana

Image source: KRTV

On Friday, Montana health officials passed a proposed rule change to change gender identification on state-issued birth certificates.

Birth certificates now exclude changes after gender confirmation surgeries.


The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services implemented the rule change on Saturday.

The change makes it impossible for transgender people to change the gender on their birth certificates.

Changes are only permitted in very limited circumstances.

The new rule also states that the sex on a birth certificate can only be changed if it was incorrectly stated on the original certificate “as a result of a scrivener’s error or a data entry.”

Another exception to the rule is when “the sex of the individual was misidentified on the original certificate and the department receives a correction affidavit and support documents, … including a copy of the results of chromosomal, molecular, karyotypic, DNA, or genetic testing that identify the sex of the individual.”

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Building up to the change

The decision by Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte’s administration comes days before a court will hear arguments on the legality of a similar rule, which has been in effect since May for emergencies.

The ACLU of Montana asked State Judge Michael Moses to overturn the state of emergency.

In April, Moses temporarily blocked a 2021 Montana law that made it difficult for transgender people to change their birth certificates.

The law required people to undergo “surgical change” before changing the sex listed on their birth certificate.

Meanwhile, Gianforte’s administration went ahead and blocked changes to birth certificates even after surgery.

Response to change

In recent years, conservative lawmakers in numerous states have campaigned to curtail the rights of transgenders.

According to transgender rights advocates, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and West Virginia have similar bans on changing birth certificates.

Meanwhile, the bans were lifted in Idaho and Ohio in 2020.

Transgender plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU of Montana, have said that a birth certificate that is not in line with their gender identity embarrasses them, discriminates against them, harasses them, or involves violence if they are asked to prove a certificate of birth.

ACLU attorney Akilah Lane said Friday’s rule was “further evidence of the state’s non-compliance” with Moses’ April order.

The judge will hear the case at a hearing on Thursday in Billings.

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The difference between past and present changes

Before the new law, transgender people who wanted to change their birth certificate in Montana only had to file an affidavit with the state health department.

With the new rule, the state Department of Public Health and Human Services said it will no longer record the “sex” category on birth certificates.

Instead, they would replace it with a listing for “sex,” which can only be changed on rare occasions.

Moses said the law passed by the 2021 legislature was unconstitutionally vague as it did not specify which surgical procedures were needed.

State health officials said the court ruling left them in “an ambiguous and uncertain situation” weeks later.

He also approved changes to the rules to clarify when a gender designation on a birth certificate might change.


Montana adopts permanent block birth certificate changes

Montana health department adopts rule severely restricting changes of sex on birth certificates

Opinions expressed by Portland News contributors are their own.