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Group sues Oklahoma governor over birth certificate order

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Gov. Kevin Stitt.
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A national civil rights group sued Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Monday over his decision to prohibit the state from issuing birth certificates listing a nonbinary option or allowing transgender people to change their gender designation.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma in Tulsa by attorneys for Lambda Legal on behalf of a transgender woman and two transgender men who live in Oklahoma. Defendants include Stitt, Interim Commissioner of Health Keith Reed and State Registrar of Vital Records Kelly Baker.

“Having a birth certificate that reflects who I am as a human being is crucial and can present a basic issue of safety for me,” plaintiff Rowan Fowler, a transgender woman who wants to correct her birth certificate that currently indicates that her gender is male, said in a statement. “There was no reason for Oklahoma to take away this basic tool that transgender people need to simply go about their everyday lives with dignity, safety, and respect.”

Stitt spokeswoman Carly Atchison declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing the pending litigation.

The first-term Republican governor issued an executive order in November. It reversed the State Department of Health’s practice of allowing transgender people to change the gender marker on their birth certificate or offering a nonbinary option instead of designating a gender. People who are nonbinary do not identify with traditional male or female gender assignments.

The health department sparked outrage among the governor and Republican lawmakers after it issued a birth certificate in May to Oregon resident Kit Lorelied, who was born in Oklahoma and who identifies as nonbinary. The agency issued the birth certificate after a settlement agreement in which it agreed to add nonbinary as an option on birth certificates.

“I believe that people are created by God to be male or female. Period,” Stitt said in a statement at the time. “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.”

The agreement was reached by Lorelied’s attorney, the Department of Health and the Office of the Attorney General.

Oklahoma’s former Commissioner of Health Lance Frye abruptly resigned after the governor and Legislature learned the agency had reached the settlement agreement.

The Oklahoma Senate, meanwhile, has passed a bill to specifically prohibit the State Department of Health from issuing birth certificates with a nonbinary gender designation. The bill is one of several measures being considered by the Legislature this year in Oklahoma that targets nonbinary, transgender or gay people in Oklahoma.