Montana to comply with court order allowing transgender birth certificate changes without surgery

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Montana’s health department on Monday said it would comply with a judge’s ruling that allows transgender people to change their gender on their birth certificates. 

The announcement came after District Court Judge Michael Moses blocked SB280, a state law passed last year by the Republican-controlled legislature that prevented transgender people from changing their gender on their birth certificates without undergoing surgery. 

FILE: Montana District Judge Michael Moses gestures during a court hearing over a state health department rule that prevents transgender people from changing their birth certificates, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022, in Billings, Mont. 

FILE: Montana District Judge Michael Moses gestures during a court hearing over a state health department rule that prevents transgender people from changing their birth certificates, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022, in Billings, Mont.  ( AP Photos/Matthew Brown)

On Monday, Moses issued a scathing order saying health officials made “calculated decisions” of his order in April, which had told them to temporarily stop enforcing the law. 

Moses said he would consider motions for contempt based on continued violations of his order, which he clarified in a verbal order at a hearing last week. 

Just hours after that hearing, the Republican-run state said it would defy the order and keep in place a rule that disallowed any changes to birth certificates unless they were due to a clerical error.

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Then on Monday, the Department of Public Health and Human Services relented, saying it would comply with the order – despite disagreeing with it.

“The department stands by its actions and analysis concerning the April 2022 preliminary injunction decision, as set forth in its rulemaking that addressed critical regulatory gaps left by the court,” said Jon Ebelt, spokesperson for the health department. 

The ACLU of Montana, which represents two transgender people who want to change their birth certificates, had requested the judicial clarification due to the state’s inaction.

Moses’ order on Monday included a copy of a 2017 rule that allowed transgender residents to file an affidavit with the health department to correct the gender on their birth certificate. 

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“If defendants require further clarification, they are welcome to request it from the court rather than engage in activities that constitute unlawful violations of the order,” Moses wrote.

Fox News’ Max Thornberry and The Associated Press contributed to this report

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