Federal Judge Warns Idaho Against Banning Birth Certificate Changes

Candy Dale
Judge Candy Dale of the US District Court for the District of Idaho warned state officials not to infringe “on the constitutional rights of transgender individuals” seeking to update the gender marker on their birth certificates.

Barely two months after Governor Brad Little of Idaho signed legislation banning individuals from changing the gender marker on their birth certificates, a federal judge warned state officials not to defy a 2018 court ruling that conflicts with the new law.

“[T]he plain language and objective of the Order and Judgment entered in this case permanently enjoin [the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare] from infringing on the constitutional rights of transgender individuals by automatically rejecting applications to change the sex listed on their birth certificates to match their gender identity,” United States District Court for the District of Idaho Judge Candy Dale, who struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in 2014, wrote on June 1.

After the birth certificate ban passed and was signed into law in late March, Lambda Legal filed a motion with the federal court in April to confirm the 2018 ruling, prompting Dale to issue the reassuring order.

The judge cautioned officials against violating the order more than two years after issuing a permanent injunction against state officials and ruling that a policy banning such changes to birth certificates was unconstitutional and discriminatory against transgender individuals. Officials were forced to allow trans people born in the state to correct the gender markers on their birth certificates.

The  legislation at odds with that order was signed into law on March 30 along with a separate bill that banned transgender girls and women from participating in sports in the state and allowed intrusive and unreliable gender testing if someone disputes an individual’s gender. That unusual testing process would be based on “internal and external reproductive anatomy,” “normal endogenously produced levels of testosterone,” or “an analysis of the student’s genetic makeup,” none of which are ways to definitively determine an individual’s gender.

The judge did not, however, offer conclusions about the new birth certificate law, which is slated to go into effect July 1.

“While serious and formidable questions exist over the constitutionality of HB 509, whether HB 509 can pass constitutional muster is not yet before the Court and not decided here,” Dale wrote.

Following the judge’s reaffirmation of the 2018 injunction, Lambda Legal counsel Peter Renn said the court “confirmed that its injunction continues to apply” and that the bill “does not whatsoever absolve state officials from their obligation to comply with the federal injunction.”

He continued,  “Like obeying speed limits and paying your taxes, Idaho state officials are not exempt from the duty to follow a court order. Here, the court’s 2018 order plainly instructed state officials not to block transgender people from accessing accurate identity documents. The court has now confirmed that what was discriminatory in 2018 remains discriminatory today.”

In 2017, Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit at the center of the 2018 action by the court. Lambda Legal maintained in that case that denying trans people born in the state from updating their birth certificates amounts to discrimination and invades privacy, liberty, and freedom from compelled speech. 

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