Republicans in Idaho’s house are moving forward with a law that would ban transgender people from correcting the gender listed on their birth certificates.
If passed, Idaho would join Tennessee as the only states that have laws that explicitly ban transgender people from updating their legal documents.
In 2018, Idaho’s ban on transgender people correcting their birth certificates was overturned by a federal court. But Idaho Rep. Julianne Young (R) has proposed a bill that would only allow people to ask a court to change a birth certificate “on the basis of fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact, with the burden of proof upon the party challenging the acknowledgment.”
The bill passed the House State Affairs Committee on a party-line vote and is now going to the state house floor. There are 56 Republicans and 14 Democrats in the state house, and the state senate has 25 Republicans and seven Democrats. The state’s governor is a Republican as well.
Young said that a birth certificate is a “historical document” that records “the natural function of the other biological sex,” even though birth certificates are generally viewed by courts and state governments as legal documents with various functions.
Before the 2018 ruling, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare categorically denied all attempts to correct gender markers on birth certificates.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale ruled at the time that the policy violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause because some people (like adoptive parents) were allowed to update birth certificates, while transgender people were not. The court found that there was no reason for the ban, which caused transgender people to suffer “irreparable injury and harm” because they could be outed as transgender through their official documents.
Young said that her bill’s purpose is to fight violence against women.
“There is an ongoing discussion about this, but I will tell you, as a woman who is aware of the crime statistics related to the vulnerability of females as a group, this concerns me,” Young said.
Idaho allows 16-year-old girls to be married to adult men – a practice that has been called “legal rape” – and the state had the highest rate of child marriage in the country in 2010, according to the group Unchained At Last.
But instead of working on that, Young is addressing the issue of transgender people using updated birth certificates to attack cisgender women. None of the bill’s sponsors, according to Boise State Public Radio, could cite even a single example of this happening in the state.
Much of the testimony the committee heard was against the bill. Emily Jackson-Edney, a transgender woman, said the bill “would target one of the most marginalized and maligned communities of people in this state.”
Committee Chair Steve Harris (R) scolded Jackson-Edney for attributing motives to the bills supporters.
Richard Eppink of the ACLU of Idaho and Monica Cockerille, a lawyer who worked on the case that led to the 2018 ruling, said that Young’s bill would violate the federal court ruling from 2018.
“The court made clear that any barrier erected by the state, by rule or by statute, to stop transgender people from getting birth certificates matching who they are will be presumptively invalid,” said Cockerille.
If it passes, the state legislature could be held in contempt, according to Eppink.
Democrats called the bill “a legal disaster.” State Rep. John Gannon (D) said that the bill would open the state up to “an expensive losing lawsuit paid for by taxpayers and putting state officials at risk of contempt proceedings.”
Ohio is the only other state that has no process for transgender people to update birth certificates. That policy is derived from a court ruling.