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Montana health department faces pushback on transgender birth certificate rule

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Missoula County
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The Montana health department Thursday got lots of pushback on a rule barring transgender residents from amending the gender markers on their birth certificates. Roughly 200 Montanans logged onto a Zoom call with the agency.

Within the two and half hour time limit for public input, about 100 people, including teachers, doctors, faith leaders and trans Montanans seeking to amend their birth certificates, spoke in opposition of the rule.

Courtney Von Lindern, a nonbinary Missoulian who’s working to become a deacon in the United Methodist Church, said the government should not interfere in an individual’s decision on how to identify.

“The understanding of who we are as persons regardless of our gender or our sex assigned at birth — any of our identities — is deeply personal, deeply spiritual and deeply sacred.”

The state issued its emergency rule in response to a district court judge temporarily blocking a law passed in 2021 that would require a trans person to undergo gender-affirming surgery and prove it in court before the person could amend their birth certificate.

The court order required the health department to return to status quo, which department officials said wasn’t possible, so they issued the emergency rule in order to have a policy in place.

One person spoke in support of the emergency rule, saying gender transitions are “not science.”

Health experts recognize transgender identities as people living with a marked incongruence between their experienced gender and the one they were assigned at birth. The American Medical Association states trans and nonbinary identities are normal variantions of human identity and should be treated with gender-affirming care.

Another commenter, Gwen Nicholson, said she was on the verge of amending the gender marker on her birth certificate when the emergency rule was enacted, and she was unable to complete the process, meaning legal documents, like her social security information, could not be updated.

“I feel that my civil rights have already been unduly limited and the risk of discimination and physical harm that I face in my life has been elevated.”

The emergency rule is set to expire in September if officials don’t take action beforehand. The public comment period for written testimony will end July 8.

Shaylee is Montana Public Radio's Capitol reporter. She previously worked for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and covered the 2019 legislative session for the University of Montana's Legislative News Service.
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