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Oklahoma Governor Orders Health Department to Stop Issuing Nonbinary Birth Certificates

The executive order conflicts with the department’s settlement agreement resulting from a federal lawsuit in October

Oklahoma Governor J. Kevin Stitt issued an executive order instructing the State Department of Health (OSDH) to cease providing nonbinary birth certificates. 

Stitt said the intention of his Nov. 8 order is to ensure “that this unauthorized action will be corrected.” 

Citing the power granted to him by the Oklahoma Constitution, Stitt ordered OSDH to stop amending birth certificates in a manner inconsistent with state law and remove all references to the practice from its website. He also told the department to inform his office of any pending litigation related to the issue of amending birth certificates. 

Lastly, Stitt urged lawmakers to “immediately pass legislation that will clarify … that changes in sex or gender on a birth certificate or a designation of non-binary is contrary to Oklahoma law.” 

The order comes one month after OSDH issued the first nonbinary birth certificate in state history to Kit Lorelied. 

“Having a birth certificate that matches my identity means that the government respects my right to exist without having to hide who I am,” Lorelied told NonDoc via email in October. “It means that I can be treated with the dignity that any citizen deserves.”

The revised birth certificate resulted from a lawsuit Lorelied filed against OSDH’s commissioner of health and registrar of vital records on Aug. 14, 2020.

Initially, OSDH sent a letter to Lorelied that stated, “‘Non-binary’ is not an option in Oklahoma for birth records. If you choose to amend your birth record to reflect male, the order will need to be modified to reflect that and then we will need a certified copy of that order.” 

In response to the lawsuit, which argued the denial of that change violated the U.S. Constitution, OSDH agreed to settle the suit and alter its practices. 

“Requirements for legally changing the sex designation on an Oklahoma birth certificate have changed,” Jackie Shawnee, chief of staff for the former Oklahoma commissioner of health, told NonDoc in a statement at the time. “In order to legally change the sex designation on an original Oklahoma birth certificate, you must obtain a court order from an Oklahoma court. A certified copy of this court order must be presented to [the] Oklahoma [Office of] Vital Records before an amended birth certificate can be issued.”

Stitt, however, maintains that the settlement agreement violates state law and “was not reviewed or approved by my administration.” 

The governor had previously voiced his opposition to nonbinary birth certificates in a statement released on Oct. 21:

“I believe that people are created by God to be male or female. Period. There is no such thing as non-binary 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. … I will be taking whatever action necessary to protect Oklahoma values and our way of life.”

Lorelied, who describes themself as a “geeky trans nonbinary librarian,” took to Facebook on Nov. 10 to respond to Stitt’s executive order. 

“I wonder what there is about me that frightens people like Governor Stitt? And make no mistake, it is fear that backs their hateful rhetoric,” Lorelied said. “I will … see that bigots like you are removed from power. I will lift the voices of those that live in the intersection and by doing so delight in them drowning you and your hate out.” 

Lorelied continued: “You have won a small skirmish but you have not won the war. Be prepared. We are coming.” 

In a Facebook post the day before, Lorelied referred to Stitt as “the a—hole governor” who “is directly responsible for killing people.” 

OSDH did not immediately respond to a recent request for comment from The Hill. 

According to the Movement Advancement Project, 15 states currently allow people to select male, female or “X” gender on their birth certificate. Currently, only two states — West Virginia and Tennessee — do not allow gender markers on their birth certificates to be amended. 

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