Metro Weekly

Court strikes down Idaho law barring transgender people from changing their birth certificates

Judge had previously warned Idaho lawmakers not to disobey an order she issued two years ago

idaho, trans, transgender, law

Idaho Gov. Brad Little – Photo: Facebook

A federal court in Idaho struck down a recently-passed law pushed by Republicans, including Gov. Brad Little, that sought to prohibit transgender residents from amending the gender marker on their birth certificates to match their gender identity.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale of the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho struck down the law on the grounds that it violated a permanent injunction she previously issued in 2018, in response to a lawsuit brought by several transgender plaintiffs challenging the state’s previous ban prohibiting any individual from amending the gender marker on their birth certificate.

Dale’s injunction sought to block the state from enforcing its ban, on the grounds that the ban infringed on the constitutional rights of transgender people.

“[The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s enforcement of HB 509] denies transgender individuals a meaningful process for changing the sex listed on their birth certificate to reflect their gender identity,” Dale wrote in her ruling.

“This violates the Injunction’s directive prohibiting IDHW from categorically rejecting applications from transgender people to change the sex listed on their birth certificates and its mandate that IDHW allow such applications.”

In the two years since Dale issued her injunction, Little and Republicans in the legislature have repeatedly tried to undermine the ability of transgender individuals to alter their birth certificates, first attempting to block minors from being able to change their gender markers through the regular rule-making process.

After that rule was reversed on a technicality, lawmakers then introduced and passed a bill to restore the state’s previous policy, with a provision that would only allow changes within a year after the birth certificate was first issued based on alleged “factual” errors (such as a clerical error, and not related to a person’s gender identity).

Dale had previously warned Idaho officials in a June ruling that the permanent injunction continued to apply to the new law, cautioning them against “experimentation with disobedience of the law.”

Yet despite that law, the state continued forward with its enforcement of the law as soon as it went into effect on July 1.

See also: California bans official state travel to Idaho in protest of anti-transgender laws

Lambda Legal, which represented the plaintiffs in the original lawsuit, praised Dale’s ruling.

“It is astonishing that the Idaho legislature and Gov. Little plowed forward with resuscitating this dangerous and archaic ban in direct defiance of multiple court orders that repeatedly ordered the government to stop discriminating against transgender people and placing them in harm’s way,” Nora Huppert, a Renberg Fellow and attorney with Lambda Legal, said in a statement.

“The court could not have been clearer: What was discriminatory in 2018 remains discriminatory today. Idaho officials may not block transgender people from obtaining identity documents that reflect who they are. This law seeks to deny the very existence of transgender people by stripping them of their identity.”

Huppert added: “When you treat the federal court like a doormat, there are going to be consequences. The rule of law comes to a grinding halt if government officials can act as if they are above the law that the rest of us are expected to follow.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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