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Nonbinary birth certificate causes uproar among Oklahoma GOP leaders

Kevin Stitt
Sue Ogrocki
FILE - In this Friday, May 7, 2021 file photo, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt speaks during a ceremony, in Oklahoma City. Republican leaders in Oklahoma are expressing outrage after learning the State Department of Health issued a birth certificate this year with a nonbinary designation after they reached a settlement in which they agreed to add nonbinary as an option. Stitt condemned the settlement on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021 and GOP legislative leaders said the agency wasn't authorized to enter into the agreement.

After settling a lawsuit, Oklahoma state officials agreed to include a non-binary gender option on updated birth certificates. The change ushered in immediate blowback from conservatives.

The change will allow non-binary people born in Oklahoma to change their gender designation on re-issued birth certificates.

Oklahoma added the option after settling a lawsuit with a non-binary, Oklahoma-born Oregon resident, who had sought the change themself, according to reporting by nonprofit news outlet NonDoc.

Soon after, top elected Republicans including Gov. Kevin Stitt began issuing statements decrying the change. Stitt’s statement, among other things, argued that there are only two genders.

"I believe that people are created by God to be male or female," Stitt said. "Period. There is no such thing as non-binary sex."

Others, including top legislative Republicans, said the process through which the change came to be was improper and should have gotten legislative approval. Many vowed to reverse the change.

House Minority Leader Emily Virgin issued a statement condemning Stitt's comments.

"A national study estimated that 52 percent of transgender and non-binary young people in the United States seriously contemplated suicide last year. The governor’s suggestion that non-binary people don’t qualify as Oklahomans is abhorrent and completely unbecoming of a governor. Moreover, it is dangerous. We are elected to help people not make their lives harder," Virgin said.

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Catherine Sweeney grew up in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and attended Oklahoma State University. She has covered local, state and federal government for outlets in Oklahoma, Colorado and Washington, D.C.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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