Montana Health Department agreed on Monday to temporarily allow transgender people to change the gender on their birth certificates in line with a judge’s ruling it was defying for months.
The Republican-run state will now stop enforcing – at least temporarily- its law blocking transgender people that had not undergone surgery from changing their gender on their birth certificates.
District Court Judge Michael Moses issued a scathing order Monday morning saying Montana health officials made calculated violations of his April order which he clarified in a verbal order at a hearing last Thursday, stressing that he would promptly consider motions for contempt based on continued violations.
Attorneys for the state had argued during Thursday’s hearing that blocking the law did not prevent the health department from promulgating new administrative rules.
Just hours after the hearing, Montana officials announced they would defy the order and keep in place a rule that ruled out any changes to birth certificates unless they were due to a clerical error.
However, the Department of Public Health and Human Services issued a statement on Monday afternoon, saying it would comply with the order despite disagreeing with it.
It is still not clear when the state might start processing applications or how many people have sought to correct their birth certificates in recent months.
Calling Montana’s interpretation of his April order demonstrably ridiculous, Judge Moses said that the state attempted to rationalize its actions and calculated violations of the order by engaging in needless legal gymnastics.
The spokesperson for the Montana Health Department, Jon Ebelt, on the other hand, emphasized that the department stands by its actions and analysis concerning the preliminary injunction decision made in April.
Alex Rate, an attorney with the ACLU of Montana which represents the plaintiffs – two transgender people who want to change their birth certificates – said that it’s unfortunate that it has taken many months and two very clear court orders for Montana authorities to comply with the law.