Plaintiffs sue Montana for barring transgender people from amending birth certificates

By Ehren Wynder

April 18 (UPI) -- Two transgender women on Thursday sued the state of Montana and several state agencies over a 2022 policy that prohibits people from changing the sex designation on their birth certificates.

The lawsuit challenges SB 280, which only allows for changes in sex designation on birth certificates after the person's sex "has been changed by surgical procedure."


The plaintiffs also challenged the Montana Motor Vehicle Division's policy, which no longer allows applicants to change the sex designation on the driver's license, which transgender people have previously been able to do with a letter from a doctor.

According to the lawsuit, all of these measures are "invalid, illegal and unconstitutional."

"After finally being able to live my life openly as the woman I know myself to be, I am frustrated that my birth state, Montana, is forcing me to carry around a birth certificate that incorrectly lists my sex as male," said Jessica Kalarchik, a transgender veteran and one of the plaintiffs in the case.

"I am being forced to use a birth certificate that is inaccurate and that places me at risk of discrimination and harassment whenever I have to present it."


The plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Montana, and Nixon Peabody LLP, also seek a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of these policies.

"Here in Montana we treasure our right to privacy and to live our lives free from governmental intrusion," said Akilah Deernose, executive director for the ACLU of Montana.

"The State of Montana clearly has not learned any lessons from the past few years, where Courts have repeatedly struck down unconstitutional laws targeting transgender Montanans."

Montana's Department of Public Health and Human Services in February said it would only process applications for amending the sex designation on birth certificates in cases where the person's sex was misidentified at birth or if incorrect sex designations were the result of a scrivener's error.

The agency said it would not amend a birth certificate based on "gender transition, gender identity, or change of gender," subject to the provisions of SB 458, which defines sex as being "determined by the biological and genetic indication of male and female."

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte, a Republican, signed SB 458 last May. The governor's office at the time said transgender people can "identify with whatever gender, but not sex, they wish."


SB 280 also faced a legal challenge shortly after its adoption in 2021. During the case, District Court Judge Michael Moses of Billings issued a preliminary injunction and ordered the state not to enforce the law.

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