Birth certificate testimony previews upcoming legislative tensions

By Devon Downey, Idaho Reports

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Members of the public testify at a public hearing on a proposed rule change affecting minors who wish to change the gender markers on their birth certificates. Melissa Davlin/Idaho Reports

On Monday, the Department of Health and Welfare held a public hearing in Boise on birth certificate changes for transgender youth, with testimony that highlighted tensions likely to come up during the 2020 legislative session.

The proposed rule would require anyone under the age of 18 to get a signed form by a medical professional stating that the change requested on their birth certificate matches their gender identity.

Out of the 29 people who testified in the crowded room, 20 of them spoke against changing birth certificates at all. Many argued that birth certificates are historical documents that are a snapshot of the person at the time of their birth and therefore should not be altered. A few also argued that there is a difference between sex and gender identity, and birth certificates only state sex.

A 2018 court decision mandates that Idaho must have a process for individuals to change the gender on their birth certificate. That process has been in place since April 2018. The requirement that minors must have doctor sign-off for that change went into effect in July.

Between April 2018 and May 2019, there were 101 applications for birth certificate gender changes, according to the Bureau of Vital Statistics. Of those, 15 were for minors.

While the testimony was over two-to-one against birth certificate changes, this hearing was specific to the requirement that minors get a medical attestation prior to changing their birth certificate. IDHW held six public hearings throughout the state in August on their full rule docket on temporary rules, including the process that is already in place to change a birth certificate. Those hearings drew a handful of comments on that process.

Five people who testified specifically mentioned the proposed rule, and all of them were opposed — though they supported allowing people to change their birth certificates. 

“All my identity documents are now congruent with my name and gender identity,” said Emilie Jackson-Edney, one of the women who spoke in opposition to the medical form required for minors. “All of these allow me to navigate smoothly through society.”

“It is necessary for youth to be able to have records that accurately reflect their gender identity,” said Annie Hightower of the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence.  Hightower does not “think there should be additional burdens on youth being able to do that.”

The hearing drew a handful of lawmakers, including Reps. Steve Harris, Dorothy Moon, Tammy Nichols, and Melissa Wintrow, as well as Sen. Regina Bayer, though only Nichols and Wintrow testified.

Public hearings will continue on this proposed rule on September 24th in Twin Falls and September 25th in Idaho Falls.

Social issues like this are likely to be front and center this session due to the ongoing Adree Edmo case, concerning an Idaho inmate who has asked for, and has been denied, gender confirmation surgery. After the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of Edmo, Governor Brad Little has appealed to the United States Supreme Court, and the legislature may act to prevent future cases like Edmo’s. 

Lawmakers have also discussed reexamining higher education funding because of the cost of some diversity and inclusion programs, like Black Graduation, Rainbow Graduation, and proposed gender-inclusive restrooms at Boise State University. “The taxpayers are paying for to help fund these universities, and basically, we’re paying for our kids to be indoctrinated,” Rep. Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton, told Breitbart News Saturday in a September 21st interview.

Idaho Reports will continue to report on these issues and more leading up to the upcoming legislative session.

Melissa Davlin contributed to this report.

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