On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that Montana is threatening to defy a federal judge's order against their rule that makes it virtually impossible for transgender people to get their gender changed on their birth certificate.
The controversy comes after a bill signed into law in 2021 by GOP Gov. Greg Gianforte that said the changes could only be made if the person underwent a "surgical procedure". After that law was temporarily put on hold, with the court finding this was too "vague" a requirement, state officials stepped in and administratively issued a rule restoring it, and making it even stricter.
The legal actions against the new rule were brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana.
"District Court Judge Michael Moses chided attorneys for the state during a hearing in Billings for circumventing his April order that temporarily blocked a 2021 Montana law that made it harder to change birth certificates," reported Matthew Brown and Amy Beth Hanson. "Moses said there was no question that state officials violated his earlier order by creating the new rule. Moses said his order reinstates a 2017 Department of Public Health and Human Services rule that allowed people to update the gender on their birth certificate by filing an affidavit with the department."
"However, the state said it would disregard the ruling," said the report. "'The Department thoroughly evaluated the judge’s vague April 2022 decision and crafted our final rule to be consistent with the decision. It’s unfortunate that the judge’s ruling today does not square with his vague April decision,' said Charlie Brereton, director of the Department of Public Health and Human Services." Such open defiance of a judicial order is highly unusual.
Montana is one of only a small handful of states to heavily restrict changing gender on a birth certificate, noted the report; only Tennessee, Oklahoma, and West Virginia have similar rules. Idaho and Ohio also previously enacted similar rules, but they were struck down in 2020.