Montana has advanced a bill that would make it more difficult for transgender people to change the gender listed on their birth certificate.
Senators voted 29 to 19 in favor of Senate Bill 10, which would kill updates by the Department of Public Health and Human Services allowing trans individuals to change identity documents without prior surgery. During a special session to address a $227 million budget shortfall in the state budget, Republicans warned that the reforms would be expensive to implement.
Sen. Albert Olszewski (R-Kalispell) claimed that it would cost between $100,000 and $200,000 to update government forms and computer systems. He also argued that DPHHS should have consulted the State Legislature before mandating the changes.
The Montana Family Foundation has begun circulating a petition which alleges that there are “as many as 71 recognized genders with more being added all the time.” Although DPHHS has said that updates will not require “additional fields” to be added to internal paperwork, the conservative group’s president invoked the gay agenda.
“That’s not what the other side wants,” president Jeff Laszloffy told the Helena Independent Record. “They are not looking for male/female.”
Senate Democrats universally lambasted the GOP measure as unnecessary and malicious. Out lesbian Rep. Kim Abbott (D-Helena), who is co-director of the Montana Human Rights Network, claimed in a statement that the legislation had “no place” in the Montana special session, which was called by Gov. Steve Bullock early this month.
“Today we saw a stark contrast between one party that showed up to address the budget issue we face, and one party that wants to waste taxpayer money and do things to harm people,” added Rep. Bryce Bennett (D-Missoula) in a press release.
A representative with DPHHS said that the reforms were merely designed to bring Montana up to speed with advances that other states have already made. The current policy on changing one’s birth certificate stems from the 1970s, when the American public knew very little about who transgender people were.
“In order to change a gender on a birth certificate you had to have undergone a surgical procedure, and that is just not that standard practice anymore,” Nick Domitrovich of DPHHS told Montana Public Radio.
The reforms would allow trans people to apply for an update to their birth documentation in one of three ways.
Transgender people could submit a sworn affidavit claiming that they have either undergone gender transition or are medically defined as intersex, meaning that their sex characteristics are neither male nor female. Other options include submitting a court order for updated identity documents or government-issued identification which reflects their current gender identity.
LGBTQ advocacy groups have denounced SB 10, which currently awaits a vote from the legislature’s House of Representatives.
“This bill is a clear effort to walk back progress and create complicated and discriminatory roadblocks for trans Montanans seeking documents that accurately reflect who they are,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD in a statement.
Should it pass the House, the legislation is likely to be vetoed by Gov. Bullock, who is a Democrat.