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Oklahoma governor balks after State Health Department issues birth certificate with nonbinary gender marker

Decrying "rogue activists," Gov. Kevin Stitt denies existence of nonbinary people and vows to protect "Oklahoma values and our way of life."

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt – Photo: The White House.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and state Republican lawmakers are throwing a tantrum after the State Health Department issued a birth certificate with a nonbinary gender marker.

The birth certificate was issued earlier this month after an Oregon resident who was born in Oklahoma successfully petitioned the State Health Department to reissue their birth certificate with an amended gender marker on Oct. 7.

In August 2020, Kit Lorelied filed a lawsuit seeking to force the Oklahoma State Department of Health to reissue their birth certificate with a nonbinary gender marker.

Lorelied sued after having that request rejected by a state vital records official who said the state does not issue gender-neutral gender markers.

In the lawsuit, Lorelied argued that Oklahoma’s policy was unconstitutional, violating their right to equal treatment under the law, their right to due process, and their First Amendment right to free speech, which includes the right to identify as nonbinary.

On August 25, Oklahoma County District Judge Aletia Timmons issued a court order requiring the Department of Health to comply with Lorelied’s request.

Currently, 17 states and the District of Columbia offer gender-neutral gender markers on official government documents and IDs.

But after learning that the Department of Health had complied with Timmons’ order, Stitt and legislative leaders began making plans to reverse the department’s actions, which they claim overstepped the agency’s authority, according to The Oklahoman.

In a statement, Stitt declared he would take any action necessary to protect “Oklahoma values and our way of life.”

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

But former State Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye — who resigned last Friday following outrage from conservatives in response to news of the nonbinary birth certificate — said that the attorney general’s office, under former Attorney General Mike Hunter, had reached a legal settlement regarding gender markers on birth certificates in May, months before Lorelied filed their lawsuit.

“The Oklahoma State Department of Health will work with the governor and attorney general’s office for input and counsel on next steps,” Frye said in a statement.

“Our responsibility is to maintain vital statistics, and we will continue to do so in accordance with the laws of Oklahoma. Should a challenge to the previous agreement be made, we will proceed accordingly.”

See also: Utah Republican wants to block birth certificates from being changed to reflect gender identity

House Speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka) called on Stitt to issue an executive order to “correct” the health department’s actions.

McCall argued that the May settlement reached by the attorney general’s office is invalid and unenforceable because state law requires that settlements that “substantially impact the operation or programs of a state agency” must be approved by the governor’s office and legislative leaders prior to being finalized. McCall said he was never consulted about the settlement.

Already, GOP lawmakers are chomping at the bit to outlaw nonbinary gender markers, a move likely to trigger yet another lawsuit from LGBTQ advocates. State Sen. Micheal Bergstrom (R-Adair) has pre-filed a bill, to be brought up during next year’s legislative session, that would require all birth certificates issued by the state to have either a male or a female gender marker.

Oklahoma State Rep. Mauree Turner – Photo: Instagram.

LGBTQ advocates and Democratic lawmakers have criticized Stitt for grandstanding, taking issue with his comments that nonbinary individuals are somehow contrary to “Oklahoma values.” They also noted that many indigenous communities, including some tribes in Oklahoma, recognize the existence of two-spirit individuals, or people who have both a masculine and a feminine spirit.

“We are in an election year in a time where transgender and nonbinary and two-spirit folks become an unfortunate target for many of our elected officials who are seeking to score points with voters by doubling down on inflammatory talking points,” Nicole McAffee, the executive director of the LGBTQ rights group Freedom Oklahoma, said in a statement.

State Rep. Mauree Turner (D-Oklahoma City), who was sworn in as the state and the nation’s first nonbinary state legislator earlier this year, criticized Stitt as being out of touch and fostering hostility toward members of the LGBTQ2S+ community.

“If you have to work with people who adamantly oppose your existence, right, to the point to where we can’t work together, you can’t talk to me, you can’t talk to me like I’m a human being, you don’t see me, that damages anyone’s working relationship,” Turner told Oklahoma City-based FOX affiliate KOKH. “If we are continuously saying like, ‘You’re not real, you have to suppress that part of you,’ what is that going to do to our community? What’s that going to do to our kids?”

See also:

Texas Republican asks state attorney general to affirm that LGBTQ marriages don’t have to be recognized

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