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Editorial: Birth certificates not issued to affirm a religious faith or way of life
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Editorial: Birth certificates not issued to affirm a religious faith or way of life

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Oklahoma birth certificate

An Oklahoma birth certificate is pictured in 2000.

Having a gender-neutral choice on birth certificates has become the latest battle cry in the social wars over the rights of LGBTQ+ people, and it’s predictable in election year politicking.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health issued the first nonbinary birth certificate after a person successfully settled a lawsuit against the state for the right to legally identify as such. State Republican leaders were quick to condemn the action.

Gov. Kevin Stitt said he would take action: “I believe that people are created by God to be male or female. Period. There is no such thing as nonbinary 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.”

House Speaker Charles McCall called the settlement “invalid and unenforceable.” Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat said it was “an egregious example of executive overreach.” Sen. Micheal Bergstrom prefiled legislation to prevent offering a nonbinary birth certificate option.

It stems from a lawsuit filed by an adult who wanted to update their birth certificate to nonbinary, which refers to a person whose gender identity is neither male nor female or somewhere on a spectrum between those. The request was initially denied because the option did not exist.

The lawsuit argued that the policy was unconstitutional for violating the rights to equal treatment under the law, due process and free speech. An Oklahoma County judge on Aug. 25 ordered the state Health Department to comply with the request.

Birth certificates are like marriage certificates in that they are government-issued documents necessary for certain benefits. That was a central argument in the lawsuits for same-sex marriage.

Birth certificates serve as proof of a person’s age, citizenship status and identity. These are required to obtain Social Security numbers, passports, driver’s licenses, employment, school enrollment and other public benefits.

They are not used to affirm a particular brand of religion or way of life. They are legal documents to reflect the existence of a person.

If a person wants to change their birth certificate to accurately reflect their gender identification, what harm does that cause the state? How does that change another person’s values or way of life?

It doesn’t. This change affects only the person making the request. It eliminates the discrimination people who identify as gender neutral or gender fluid face when using birth certificates.

State Rep. Mauree Turner, D-Oklahoma City, who is the first and only nonbinary person serving in a state Legislature, posted their reaction on Twitter, saying some lawmakers “quite literally pretend I don’t exist.”

“They don’t know what it means to reimagine something beautiful where everybody thrives. It’s saddening to see a few men pour this deeply misguided and very dangerous rhetoric into an entire state.”

Oklahoma has much more pressing problems to deal with than how individuals view their gender. This is just another election year wedge issue to serve as a distraction.


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