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Transgender people sue over law on birth certificate changes

July 16, 2021 GMT
FILE - In this March 15, 2021, file photo, demonstrators gather on the steps of the Montana State Capitol protesting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in Helena, Mont. Two transgender people sued Friday, July 16, 2021, over a new Montana law that makes it difficult for transgender people to change the sex on their birth certificates. (Thom Bridge/Independent Record via AP, File)
FILE - In this March 15, 2021, file photo, demonstrators gather on the steps of the Montana State Capitol protesting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in Helena, Mont. Two transgender people sued Friday, July 16, 2021, over a new Montana law that makes it difficult for transgender people to change the sex on their birth certificates. (Thom Bridge/Independent Record via AP, File)

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Two transgender people sued Friday over a new Montana law that makes it difficult for transgender people to change the sex on their birth certificates.

Amelia Marquez and John Doe said in a lawsuit filed in Yellowstone County that the law signed this year by Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte violates their right to privacy and equal protection under the law guaranteed by the state Constitution.

The law requires transgender people to change their sex by surgical procedure and receive a court order indicating that in order for them to change the sex on their birth certificate.

Many transgender people choose not to undergo surgical procedures to affirm their identity. Such procedures are sometimes deemed unnecessary or too expensive.

Marquez, 27, has undertaken hormone therapy for two years and legally changed her name to a traditionally feminine one, according to court documents. She says she cannot afford the surgery required by the law and does not want it. Having a birth certificate that does not match her gender identity puts her at higher risk of harassment, hostility and discrimination, the lawsuit said.

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“My inability to obtain a birth certificate that accurately reflects my female gender identity is a painful and stigmatizing reminder of the state of Montana’s refusal to recognize me as a woman,” Marquez said in a statement released by the American Civil Liberty Union of Montana, which represents her and Doe.

Doe, 22, was born in Gallatin County and now lives outside of Montana. He has identified as male since he was a teenager. He receives hormone therapy and counseling for gender dysphoria and underwent one gender-affirming this year. But he does not want further surgery or to provide his medical records to change his birth certificate, which he says would entail public humiliation.

“The fear of having to produce his medical records in a public forum, forcing him to out himself as transgender, is unconscionable,” said Akilah Lane, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Montana.

Before the new law passed, transgender residents seeking to change their birth certificate needed only to provide an affidavit to the state health department.

Republican state Sen. Carl Glimm, who sponsored the legislation, has argued that the health department overstepped its authority in changing the designation on a birth certificate from “sex” to “gender” and then setting rules for how it could be changed. He said birth certificates contain vital statistics and should be based on the facts at the time of birth.

“Birth certificates are important government documents recording key factual and statistical information when a baby is born, including biological sex. Biological sex has never been private information throughout the course of human history, despite the ACLU’s claims in this lawsuit,” Glimm said in a statement.

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“I agree with the plaintiffs that harassment or violence because of a person’s gender is wrong and unacceptable,” he added.

The law is one of two passed earlier this year in Montana that target transgender people. The other bans transgender women and girls from playing on college and school sports teams that align with their gender identity.

The lawsuit is one of several that have been filed challenging legislation signed by Gianforte, including changes to voting laws and laws that opponents argue infringe on the Board of Regents’ rights to govern and control the university system.

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Samuels is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.