OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday directed the State Department of Health to stop issuing birth certificates listing a nonbinary option instead of designating a gender, despite a settlement agreement in a civil case in which the agency agreed to do so.
The first-term Republican said in his order that his administration never reviewed or approved the settlement agreement, which requires the Oklahoma State Department of Health to amend birth certificates in a manner not permitted under Oklahoma law.
“This order ensures this unauthorized action will be corrected,” Stitt’s order states.
The order directs the department to cease amending birth certificates in any way not specifically authorized under state law and to remove from its website any reference to amending birth certificates for nonbinary people. People who are nonbinary do not identify with traditional male or female gender assignments.
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Stitt also directed the Legislature to pass legislation when it returns next year to specifically prohibit the issuance of birth certificates with nonbinary designations.
Freedom Oklahoma, which advocates for nonbinary and LGBTQ people, said in a statement that while the state is facing scrutiny over how it carries out executions, “it felt easy for the governor to try and refocus media narratives and partisan pressure by attacking some of the most marginalized and historically excluded residents of our state.”
Nichole McAfee, the executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, said the governor does not have the authority to overturn an agreement entered into in a court of law.
Stitt’s office declined to comment, with a spokeswoman saying the order speaks for itself.
The agency issued a birth certificate in May to Oregon resident Kit Lorelied, who was born in Oklahoma, identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns.
Lorelied sued after the Oklahoma State Department of Health initially refused the request. The department, represented by the Office of the Attorney General, reached a settlement in May in which it agreed to add nonbinary as an option on birth certificates.
Stitt and other Republican leaders in the Legislature expressed outrage after learning of the decision last month, and the Commissioner of Health Lance Frye resigned the following day.
Lorelied’s attorney, Christopher Brecht of Tulsa, declined to comment on Stitt’s order, noting that the litigation is still an active case.
The Health Department issued a statement saying it would work with the governor and the Office of the Attorney General on any orders for amendments to birth certificates that fall outside the scope of current law.
The U.S. State Department announced last week it had issued its first passport with an “X” gender designation, marking a milestone in the recognition of the rights of people who do not identify as male or female, and expects to be able to offer the option more broadly next year.
Doctors and scientists say sex and gender are not the same thing. While sex typically refers to anatomy, gender identity is more an inner sense of being male, female or somewhere in between, regardless of physical anatomy, according to Dr. Jason Rafferty, a pediatrician and child psychiatrist at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Rhode Island and a lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ transgender policy.
This story has been updated to correct binary to nonbinary in headline.
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