Respect Equality

Oklahoma faces lawsuit over transgender birth certificate order

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt delivers his State of the State address in Oklahoma City on Monday, Feb. 7, 2022. (Alonzo Adams/Associated Press)

Story at a glance

  • Lambda Legal on Monday filed a lawsuit against an executive order in Oklahoma barring transgender people from altering the gender on their birth certificate to align with their gender identity.
  • Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) issued the executive order in November, reversing the state Health Department’s prior practice of altering a person’s birth certificate if they obtained a court order.
  • Nearly a third of transgender individuals who have presented an identity document with a name or gender marker inconsistent with their perceived gender have been harassed, denied benefits and services, discriminated against or assaulted.

The LGBTQ+ civil rights organization Lambda Legal has filed a lawsuit against Oklahoma following an executive order preventing transgender individuals born in the state from changing the gender on their birth certificate to match their gender identity.

According to the lawsuit filed Monday on behalf of one trans woman and two trans men, Oklahoma’s current birth certificate policy violates several constitutional guarantees, including the rights to equal protection, due process, and freedom from compelled speech.

“…there is no governmental justification to support Oklahoma’s refusal to provide transgender people with accurate birth certificates matching their gender identity and without disclosure of their transgender status,” the lawsuit reads.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) in November issued an executive order reversing the Oklahoma Health Department’s prior practice of allowing transgender people to change the gender on their birth certificates.


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“It has come to my attention that the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has entered into a settlement agreement which was not reviewed or approved by my Administration. This settlement requires OSDH to amend birth certificates in a manner not permitted under Oklahoma law,” Stitt wrote in his order. “This Order ensures that this unauthorized action will be corrected.”

Prior to the governor’s order, transgender people in Oklahoma could amend their birth certificate by presenting a court order to OSDH.

“Gov. Stitt’s executive order deprives transgender people born in Oklahoma of equal treatment under the law. Other people have access to birth certificates that match who they are, but the government has singled out transgender people to take away their ability to access birth certificates that match who they are,” Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Shelly Skeen said in a statement

“Inaccurate identity documents rob transgender people of control over their privacy by involuntarily ‘outing’ them to others,” she said, adding that the state’s policy worsens the “discrimination and harm” trans people often face when accessing things like housing, employment, education and health care.

Nearly a third of transgender individuals who have presented an identity document with a name or gender marker inconsistent with their perceived gender have been harassed, denied benefits and services, discriminated against or assaulted, according to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey.

“Having a birth certificate that reflects who I am as a human being is crucial and can present a basic issue of safety for me,” plaintiff Rowan Fowler, a transgender woman, said in a statement. “The state’s denial of my existence is discriminatory and puts me in harm’s way. There was no reason for Oklahoma to take away this basic tool that transgender people need to simply go about their everyday lives with dignity, safety, and respect.”

In at least 47 states, transgender people may change their birth certificate to match their gender identity.


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