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The Idaho House of Representatives has approved a bill that would prevent residents from changing the gender marker on their birth certificates, legislation that goes against a federal court order.
The bill, which needs approval by the state Senate and governor before becoming law, is the second piece of anti-transgender legislation advanced by the Idaho House this week. The first one would prevent trans female students from participating in girls' interscholastic sports.
The birth certificate measure, passed Thursday by a vote of 53-16, stipulates that a birth certificate in most cases can be changed only within a year of its filing, the Idaho Statesman reports. Changing it after that would require a court challenge "on the basis of fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact," the bill states.
The legislation conflicts with an order issued by a federal judge in 2018 that said Idaho cannot "automatically and categorically" prevent people from changing the gender on their birth certificates. It came in a case brought by two trans women against the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, who said the policy of not allowing such changes violated their constitutional rights.
The bill had support from all but two Republicans and opposition from Democrats. Its sponsor, Republican Rep. Julianne Young, said the state must maintain a "biological definition of sex" for the purpose of vital statistics and medical treatment, and she also said that recognizing a gender different from that assigned at birth raised concerns about freedom of speech and religion. "We've heard the stories of people who are required to use certain pronouns or lose their job," she said, according to the Statesman.
Linda Wright Hartgen, a Republican who voted against the bill, said the testimony of people who needed to change their gender marker was "very compelling." She added, "My job here is to protect all of the people in my district and the state of Idaho, not just those who look like me."
The bill regarding transgender student athletes, which the House OK'd Wednesday, likely violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and privacy, in the opinion of the Idaho Attorney General's Office. It also may run afoul of the Constitution's interstate commerce clause because it would conflict with rules set by national sports organizations, the office's analysis noted. That bill also awaits a Senate vote.
Similar bills have been introduced in several states. Idaho lawmakers this week also considered a measure that mirrors those in numerous other states, banning transition-related medical treatment for minors. But a committee chair decided to put the bill on hold, "effectively killing it," the Statesman reports.
Some such bills would even criminalize health care providers. One introduced in Georgia Thursday by Rep. Ginny Ehrhart would make it a felony for a medical professional to perform transition-related surgery on people under age 18 or even administer hormones or puberty blockers. Genital surgery is not usually done on minors, but top surgery sometimes is, and puberty blockers are often administered. The bill would provide for a prison term of one to 10 years for violations.
If it becomes law, the bill "will make transgender and gender-nonconforming children less safe," said a statement issued by Christina Wilson Remlin, lead counsel at the advocacy group Children's Lives. "By blocking doctors from providing affirming health care, legislators are literally putting children's lives at risk. Affirming health care saves young lives. Let's put children ahead of ideology."