US

Oklahoma’s Republican governor blocks non-binary birth certificates in cruel U-turn

Patrick Kelleher November 12, 2021
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Governor Kevin Stitt

Governor Kevin Stitt. (Alex Wong/Getty)

The governor of Oklahoma Kevin Stitt has reneged on a settlement agreement that meant non-binary people could have their birth certificates amended.

Oklahoma’s health department had previously agreed that it would amend the birth certificates of non-binary people on request after Kit Lorelied sued over the state’s refusal to recognise their gender identity.

However, Kevin Stitt has now rolled back on that settlement, saying he never agreed that non-binary people should be allowed to have their gender identity legally recognised.

He has instructed the Oklahoma Department of Health to stop amending birth certificates of non-binary residents with immediate effect and has told officials to remove information relating to the policy from its website, according to the Associated Press.

“This order ensures this unauthorised action will be corrected,” Stitt’s order said.

In a further blow, he has directed the state legislature to pass legislation next year that would legally prevent birth certificates being issued with non-binary gender options.

There is ‘a necessity’ for people to have the correct documents, activists tell Kevin Stitt

The move has been condemned by Freedom Oklahoma, an LGBT+ rights organisation. In a statement, the group’s executive director Nicole McAfee said it has always been a fact that some people do not fit into the gender binary.

“As we have noted previously, the question was not one of if people have the right to have X-gender markers in Oklahoma, but rather about the process of how,” McAfee said.

“Law requires people have government documents for everything from receiving their COVID-19 vaccine to engaging in their right to vote. So long as that is the case, there is a necessity for people to have documents that accurately reflect who they are.”

The group went on to say that Stitt “does not have the authority to overturn an agreement entered into in a court of law”.

The move, which will come as a disappointment to LGBT+ people in Oklahoma, comes after Stitt said he doesn’t believe that it’s possible for a person to be non-binary.

“I believe that people are crated by God to be male or female. Period,” Stitt said in a statement issued in October. “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.”

Lorelied’s case was settled in May, with the health department agreeing to provide them with a new birth certificate that recognised their gender identity.

The case was met with fury and backlash from local Republicans. In May, Lorelied’s attorney Christopher Brecht said he couldn’t understand the “vehement objection” from conservative lawmakers to the new measure.

“I don’t understand how this impacts binary individuals, so the swift opposition is surprising to me,” Brecht said at the time.

In October, Mauree Turner, the first openly non-binary state lawmaker in the US, hit out at Stitt’s stance, saying his approach would only serve to damage relations with other lawmakers.

“If you have to work with people who adamantly oppose your existence, right, to the point to where we can’t work together, you can’t talk to me, you can’t talk to me like I’m a human being, you don’t see me, that damages anyone’s working relationship,” they said.

“If we are continuously saying like, ‘You’re not real, you have to suppress that part of you,’ what is that going to do to our community? What’s that going to do to our kids?”

Related topics: non-binary, Oklahoma

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