Oklahoma governor signs bill banning nonbinary marker on birth certificates

The law is the first of its kind in the nation amid wave of anti-gender nonbinary legislation

Abe Asher
Wednesday 27 April 2022 00:49 BST
Related video: Oklahoma Representative Mauree Turner speaks out against anti-LGBT bills

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt has signed a bill to prohibit the use of nonbinary gender options on state birth certificates, the first ban of its kind in the United States.

The state’s legislature has passed a string of bills in recent months targeting reproductive freedom, transgender athletes, and, now, nonbinary individuals amid a nationwide wave of anti-gender nonbinary legislation.

The bill signed on Tuesday stems from an Oklahoma-specific context. Last year, an Oregon resident who had been born in Oklahoma sued the state’s Department of Health after it declined to allow them to be identified as nonbinary on their birth certificate. The State Department of Health added the option in a resulting agreement.

Mr Stitt and a number of Oklahoma Republicans reacted forcefully. The director of the State Department of Health resigned, and the governor issued an executive order banning changes to state birth certificates.

Now, the state has gone further to ensure that people who identify as nonbinary cannot have their gender status correctly reflected on their birth certificate.

Though a number of states only allow male and female gender options on their birth certificates, Oklahoma is now the first state to explicitly ban nonbinary identifiers.

Some states are going in the opposite direction. When Vermont enacts a new statute this summer, it will make 16 states that allow for gender options outside of the male-female binary on birth certificates.

In addition, the US State Department recently issued its first passport with an “X” gender designation and has said that it will begin offering more expansive options next year.

That is important, because many Americans do not identify as either male or female and are not represented by the gender binary. One of those Americans, Mauree Turner, became the first openly nonbinary person elected to a state legislature when Oklahoma City elected them in 2020.

“I find it a very extreme and grotesque use of power in this body to write this law and try to pass it — when literally none of them live like us,” Turner, a Democrat who is also the first Muslim member of the Oklahoma state legislature, tweeted on the day that the legislature debated the bill.

State Rep Sheila Dills, the Republican who sponsored the bill in the House, felt differently.

“People are free to believe whatever they want about their identity, but science has determined people are either biologically male or female at birth,” Dills said in a statement.

“We want clarity and truth on official state documents. Information should be based on established medical fact and not an ever-changing social dialogue.”

It is not, however, established medical fact that people’s gender can only be male or female. People’s gender can correspond to or be different from the sex they were assigned at birth, and many people do not identify as exclusively male or female.

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