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A federal court judge on Friday again ruled the Idaho Legislature cannot bar transgender people from changing their gender on their birth certificate.

The ruling came in a case concerning HB 509, a piece of legislation Gov. Brad Little signed into law earlier this year. The law prohibits a person from changing the sex listed on their birth certificates. The passage of the law contradicted a 2018 federal court ruling that Idaho’s previous ban on the practice violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The Idaho Legislature had received a warning from the Idaho Office of Attorney General that the law was likely indefensible in court and could cost as much as $1 million if a lawsuit was filed.

“[The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s enforcement of HB 509] denies transgender individuals a meaningful process for changing the sex listed on their birth certificate to reflect their gender identity,” according to Friday’s ruling.”This violates the Injunction’s directive prohibiting IDHW from categorically rejecting applications from transgender people to change the sex listed on their birth certificates and its mandate that IDHW allow such applications.”

The case was brought by the law firm Lambda Legal, the same firm that won the original case resulting in the 2018 court order. The firm took new action in the wake of HB 509’s passage. On June 1 — a month before the law took effect — the court reminded state officials the 2018 ruling still applied.

“We’re thrilled that the court acknowledged what the Idaho Legislature had already made obvious, that HB 509 was an effort to overturn a federal court order and that it was an effort to completely close off the avenue for transgender people to correct their birth certificate,” said Nora Huppert, an attorney with Lambda Legal. “The state has asked the court to pretend that the law doesn’t mean what it says, and that the Legislature didn’t mean what it wrote, but the court saw through that.”

HB 509 passed along a party-line vote, with Democrats opposed and Republicans supporting. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Julianne Young, R-Blackfoot.

During a hearing in February for HB 509, Young said birth certificates should reflect historical facts at the time a birth is recorded and that accurately recording the biological sex of the state’s residents is important for health and public safety reasons.

“Surgery can imitate the appearance but never the natural function of the opposite biological sex,” she said. “Even after hormone therapy or surgery, biological sex remains the primary factor in many factors of an individual’s physical function and health.”

Post Register reporter Nathan Brown contributed to this report.

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