Heather Scott

Heather Scott

The large majority of emailed and written comments the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare received on an administrative rule related to transgender people changing their birth certificates opposed the concept of letting people legally change their gender.

Elaine King, a former Republican legislative candidate from Madison County, said adults should be able to live how they desire but not change their birth certificates.

“You are playing with fire when you make such changes to the laws on birth certificates,” she wrote. “You will be opening a myriad of problems that even a plethora of additional laws won’t fix. Don’t make the abnormal and the exception the rule of the day.”

Idaho has allowed people to change their birth certificates since spring 2018, in response to a federal court ruling. Earlier this year, the DHW board of directors passed a rule saying applicants under 18 would need both parental consent and a signed form from a doctor, psychologist or other such licensed medical practitioner to change their birth certificates.

The state held five public hearings in September and took written comment until Sept. 25. While technically only the rule change for minors was up for comment, most of the comments have been on letting people legally change their gender more generally.

DHW got 82 emails and letters from people arguing against the idea of letting people change their birth certificates. King wrote that several families in her community moved to Idaho to get away from the kind of laws that exist in their former home, California.

“Such laws and rules in California opened a Pandora’s box where now students in kindergarten are taught that there are seven genders,” she wrote. “And of course, the California kindergarten teachers now instruct children that if they feel like a boy, then they can use the boy’s bathroom and if they feel like a girl, then they can use the girl’s bathroom. Imagine all the tomboys in elementary school who like to do boy activities now feel they have to identify as a boy due to the laws and this kind of teaching and not only use the boy’s bathrooms but perhaps decide they should change their gender, since laws in place warrant a sex change on their birth certificate making it acceptable and normal. Idaho is a haven for common sense and not the strange ways of a very liberal state like California.”

The Idaho Freedom Foundation also submitted a letter opposing both the proposed rule change and the previous rule that has let people change their birth certificates since 2018.

“The rule change was not fully vetted by the public because the relevant legislative committee chairman prohibited a hearing,” wrote IFF President Fred Birnbaum. “While the lack of a public legislative committee hearing is not the responsibility of the Department of Health and Welfare, we believe that merely correcting the attestation for minors is insufficient.”

DHW got 11 comments from people that were generally pro-transgender rights but didn’t address the specific rule on minors, and 12 from people who opposed the rule change because they think requiring a medical attestation for minors would create an unnecessary barrier.

“The court’s order in F.V. v. Barron cautioned the state against creating any new rule that would ‘subject one class of people to any more onerous burdens than the burdens placed on others without constitutionally appropriate justification,’ including the need to provide medical evidence,” wrote Kathy Griesmyer, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho. “The new requirement to provide a medical attestation signed by a licensed professional ... for applicants under the age of 18 does not comply with the court’s guidance in the creation of such a rule.”

A couple of pro-transgender rights commenters criticized an email sent out by Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, letting people know about the hearings. The graphic at the top of Scott’s email featured a mock birth certificate for a baby born in “The Circus Hospital” in “Reality County, Idaho,” flanked by a picture of a baby and one of an adult of ambiguous appearance. Scott sponsored a bill in 2019 to reject the original rule letting people change their birth certificates; it never got a hearing.

“The picture she chose appeared to many who saw it to poke fun at individuals who identify as trans,” wrote Lyn McArthur, a psychologist in Pocatello. “The risk of suicide attempts and completions for individuals who identify as trans are much higher than in the general population, and society’s tendency to ridicule these individuals is pervasive and disturbing. Rep. Scott’s depiction was insensitive and irresponsible, and as an Idahoan, I am embarrassed to see a state representative behaving in this manner.”

Four people sent emails supporting requiring a doctor’s sign-off to let minors change their gender, and six said proof of gender confirmation surgery should be required to let anyone change their birth certificate.

The proposed rule now goes to the Legislature, which will review it during the 2020 session.

Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.