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Oklahoma Bans Use of ‘Non-Binary’ on Birth Certificates

Featured, Government

Birth certificate | Image by Lane V. Erickson

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Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed a bill into law on Tuesday banning the use of a “non-binary” indicator on birth certificates.

The ban comes after a civil lawsuit was filed last year by an Oregon resident born in Oklahoma who wished to change their birth certificate to have an “NB” indicator for their gender. The state’s Department of Health and Social Services agreed to change the birth certificate if the lawsuit was dropped.

The move upset Republicans, leading to the department director’s resignation the following day. In November 2021, Governor Stitt issued an executive order banning the alteration of gender on birth certificates.

The Oklahoma state legislature then took up a bill to reinforce the governor’s executive order. Senate Bill 1100, authored by Sen. Michael Bergstrom (R-Adair), requires the biological sex designation on all birth certificates to be either male or female and bans a nonbinary designation or any other symbol representing a nonbinary designation, including the letter “X.”

The bill passed in a party-line vote of 75–16 in Oklahoma’s House on April 21 before reaching Stitt’s desk to be signed on Tuesday.

“People are free to believe whatever they want about their identity, but science has determined people are either biologically male or female at birth,” said Oklahoma Rep. Sheila Dills, the House sponsor of the bill. “We want clarity and truth on official state documents. Information should be based on established medical fact and not an ever-changing social dialogue.”

According to the Movement Advancement Project, fifteen states and the District of Columbia currently allow for designations other than male or female on birth certificates. Vermont will become the 16th state when its new law goes into effect on July 1.

Oklahoma is the first state to ban nonbinary designations on birth certificates through legislation, according to Lambda Legal, a civil rights group that is suing the state.

Last month, Lambda Legal issued a statement denouncing the executive order banning non-binary designations on birth certificates and announced that it would be suing Oklahoma in federal court.

“Gov. Stitt’s executive order deprives transgender people born in Oklahoma of equal treatment under the law. Other people have access to birth certificates that match who they are, but the government has singled out transgender people to take away their ability to access birth certificates that match who they are,” Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Shelly Skeen said. “Inaccurate identity documents rob transgender people of control over their privacy by involuntarily ‘outing’ them to others.”

In 2020, Oklahomans elected the nation’s first openly nonbinary legislator in the country, Oklahoma City Democrat Rep. Mauree Turner, who said they “cannot help but feel this bill is a personal attack,” according to the Tulsa World.

“I find it 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 us,” Turner wrote on Twitter the day the House debated the bill.     

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