On June 1, the Federal District Court for the State of Idaho gave state officials a firm reminder that it cannot enforce one of two transphobic laws it passed during the 2020 legislative session. The court’s memo came just a month before the enforceability of a law that bars transgender people from making changes to the gender marker on their birth certificates. Lambda Legal Counsel Peter Renn sees this as the state’s past transphobic legislation coming back to haunt it.
“Like obeying speed limits and paying your taxes, Idaho state officials are not exempt from the duty to follow a court order. Here, the court’s 2018 order plainly instructed state officials not to block transgender people from accessing accurate identity documents.” Lambda Legal Counsel Peter Renn said in a press release issued on June 1. “The court has now confirmed that what was discriminatory in 2018 remains discriminatory today.”
Lambda Legal originally filed a lawsuit, F.V. v. Jeppesen, in 2017, to prevent the state from implementing a law similar to the one passed in 2020. The injunction was based on the argument that the law violated people’s 14th Amendment rights. Two years later, in April 2020, Lambda Legal asked the court to clarify the injunction and remind the State of Idaho of the unenforceability of its law.
Without the enforcement of the injunction, the law would have forced Idaho to join Ohio and Tennessee in being the only states in the nation where changing the gender marking is illegal. The 2020 law will go into effect on Wednesday, July 1, but the court’s order bars state officials “from categorically preventing transgender people born in Idaho from correcting the gender markers on their birth certificates to match their gender identity.”
According to Lambda Legal’s complaint, prohibiting people from changing their birth certificate gender markers creates significant barriers to important services, including obtaining appropriate official identification like a driver’s license or passport, as well as making it more difficult to vote. Inaccurate ID could result in discrimination in health care and government settings.
Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Kara Ingelhart told Boise Weekly that when a birth certificate doesn’t match a person’s other identifying documents, that could result in “bias, harassment and discrimination,” in addition to causing record discrepancies for the state. In a survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality of over 6,000 transgender and gender non-conforming participants, researchers found that 40% of those who presented ID that did not match their gender identity/expression under normal circumstances reported being harassed, and 15% were asked to leave. According to Ingelhart, the law is more than just Idaho experimenting with disobeying a federal court order.
“It is remarkable that we were even back in court on this issue, as a direct result of efforts by the Idaho legislature and Governor Little to turn back the clock on equality,” wrote Ingelhart in the release. “To force this law through, even as the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, is even more inexcusable.”