Oklahoma Republican Governor Kevin Stitt signed into law a ban on using nonbinary gender markers on state birth certificates. Experts say the ban is the first of its kind in the United States.
The bill followed a flap last year in a civil case allowing a nonbinary option on birth certificates issued by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The birth certificate in the case was issued to a resident born in Oklahoma but now residing in Oregon, who sued after the Oklahoma State Department of Health initially refused the request.
Nonbinary means people who do not identify with traditional male or female gender assignments.
This bill comes as states across the U.S. have been moving to restrict rights for women and for LGBTQ people even further. Stitt and other fellow conservatives in several GOP-led states have engaged in a culture war over issues including LGBTQ rights and abortion rights. The conservative states have made strides to restrict these rights ahead of this year’s upcoming midterm elections.
The settlement prompted Republican outrage, including from the governor. After Stitt made a big stink about the health department issuing a birth certificate with a nonbinary gender designation, the Oklahoma Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye unexpectedly resigned from his post, saying he felt it was “time to move on.” He had been appointed to that position by Stitt.
After the resignation, the governor issued an executive order prohibiting any changes to a person’s gender on birth certificates, despite the settlement agreement. This has been challenged by a civil rights group in federal court, but the state has not yet responded.
Many states already offer only male or female gender options on birth certificates, but this law makes Oklahoma the first to specifically prohibit a nonbinary option.
Fifteen states and the District of Columbia currently specifically allow a gender marker designation outside of male or female. In July, Vermont will also be added to that list.