HELENA, Mont. (AP) – It’s been a month since a judge in Montana temporarily blocked enforcement of a state law that required transgender people to undergo surgery before they could change their gender on their birth certificates, and the state still isn’t in compliance with the court order warrant, the Montana ACLU said.
Health Department spokesman Jon Ebelt said the agency is still working with the Justice Department to review the April 21 ruling and its implications. He did not respond to an email asking if that meant the state was evaluating whether to appeal the order.
“We have been patient to give the state time to comply with the injunction court order,” Montana’s ACLU said in a recent statement. “However, almost a month has passed and the willful indifference of the state to the court order is unforgivable.”
Montana is among a growing list of Republican-controlled states that have moved to restrict transgender rights, including requiring student athletes to participate in sports based on their gender assigned at birth, or making it illegal for transgender minors to be treated with hormones or puberty blockers.
As of late 2017, transgender residents could apply to change the gender on their birth certificates in Montana by submitting an affidavit to the health department. District Court Judge Michael Moses’ order requires the state to return to that process while the challenge of the new law is pending.
“The state’s refusal to do so … shows a lack of respect for the judiciary and total disregard for transgender Montanans who want birth certificates that accurately identify their gender,” the ACLU said.
If the state continues to violate the preliminary injunction, Akila Lane, attorney for the ACLU of Montana, said the organization would ask the court to intervene.
“We are only looking for the state to comply” with the provisional ban, Lane said Friday.
A week after the ruling was made, Billings attorney Colin inquired Gersten on behalf of a friend about an updated gender designation application. The Office of Vital Records replied, “We will contact you as soon as we can discuss your options.”
Gersten again asked about the correct form on May 11 and received no response, according to emails shared with The Associated Press.
Many transgender people choose not to undergo gender confirmation surgery. Such proceedings are sometimes considered unnecessary or too expensive, two transgender Montanans argued in their July 2021 lawsuit.
Republican state Senator Carl Glimm, who supported the legislation, has argued that the Department of Health and Human Services overstepped its authority in 2017 by changing the designation on a birth certificate from “gender” to “sex” and then enacting rules. with which the designation can be changed.
According to the policy organization Movement Advancement Project, half of the states, plus the District of Columbia, allow transgender residents to change the gender designation on their birth certificates without surgical requirements or court orders. Just over a dozen states require surgical intervention, and such barriers are being challenged in several states, including Montana.
In recent years, other legislation has targeted transgender people and the new laws are being challenged in court.
Alabama has passed a law making it a felony to prescribe sex-confirming puberty blockers and hormones to transgender minors, but a judge has blocked the law. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott ordered child welfare officials to investigate parents of children receiving puberty blockers and other gender-affirming care as possible abuse. That too was blocked by a judge.
At least a dozen states have recently passed laws banning transgender girls and women from participating in female sports, most recently Utah.
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