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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Judge strikes down state restrictions on birth certificate changes for transgender residents

Missoula County

A Yellowstone County judge has sanctioned the state of Montana and struck down its restrictions on birth certificate amendments for transgender residents.

District Court Judge Michael Moses has found the state in contempt of court for “blatantly” ignoring his order to use a status quo procedure allowing for transgender Montanans to update the gender marker on their birth certificates.

The judge wrote that the order was “repeatedly clarified and repeatedly disregarded,” showing contempt for the judicial system by the state. Moses is now requiring the state to cover the plaintiffs’ attorney fees, which are expected to be “substantial.”

The judge noted that the state had new counsel at a hearing last month, who apologized for the state’s actions. The judge wrote the state’s attorney could “not provide a legitimate explanation or an explanation of any kind for the continued noncompliance.”

Judge Moses also struck down the law and rule regulating birth certificate amendments as unconstitutionally vague, which the state’s attorneys conceded to last month.

However, the issue isn’t settled. Republican lawmakers in the state Legislature passed a new law this year that defines sex in state code, which also prevents transgender Montanans from updating the gender marker on their birth certificates if it goes into effect.

In separate statements, both the state health department and the attorney general’s office said they are reviewing the order and considering next steps. Spokesperson for the state health department Jon Ebelt did not respond to questions about what rule will now regulate the birth certificate process.

Shaylee covers state government and politics for Montana Public Radio. Please share tips, questions and concerns at 406-539-1677 or  
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