News (USA)

Oklahoma bans non-binary birth certificates in first-of-its-kind law

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin StittPhoto: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) signed a bill this week that bans non-binary gender markers on birth certificates in the state, making Oklahoma the first state to explicitly ban such birth certificates.

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

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“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,” said state Rep. Mauree Turner (D), who is non-binary, when the bill was being debated.

The issue came to Stitt’s attention last year when the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) issued a birth certificate with a non-binary gender marker to Kit Lorelied, a non-binary person born in Oklahoma who is now living in Oregon.

The birth certificate was part of a settlement that OSDH agreed to in May 2021 with Lorelied after they sued when OSDH refused to issue a birth certificate that recognized their gender identity as neither male nor female. OSDH started allowing people to choose a gender marker beyond M or F on birth certificates as part of the settlement as well.

“I believe that people are created by God to be male or female. Period,” Stitt said after finding out about the birth certificate. “There is no such thing as non-binary 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.”

Oklahoma Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye said that the settlement was reviewed by the state attorney general, and he sounded like he planned to stay in his leadership position at OSDH to work out a new settlement “should a challenge to the previous agreement be made.”

The very next day, Dr. Frye resigned without saying why. A spokesperson for OSDH said he “felt it was time to move on.” Gov. Stitt praised Dr. Frye’s work on the COVID-19 pandemic and named an interim commissioner of health that same day.

Stitt ordered OSDH to stop issuing birth certificates with non-binary gender markers.

“This order ensures this unauthorized action will be corrected,” the order stated.

Stitt then directed the state legislature to pass a law banning non-binary gender markers on birth certificates, the law he signed this week.

Lorelied said that they “don’t understand the vehement objection to something like this” because “I don’t understand how this impacts binary individuals.”

“From my perspective, having the very first thing that identifies you to the world, to have that not identify you accurately, I can’t think of anything more degrading,” their lawyer Christopher Brecht said.

The lawsuit is still active.

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