Alerts & Actions

Montana DPHHS Defies Court Order and Discriminates Against Transgender Montanans

Late yesterday, news broke that the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) responded to an ongoing lawsuit regarding gender markers on identifying documents with a worst-case scenario. DPHHS issued an emergency rule that stops all gender marker changes. According to the emergency rule, “The court’s decision leaves this department in an ambiguous and uncertain situation. The court’s preliminary injunction means that, pending final resolution of the litigation, the department’s Office of Vital Records (OVR) cannot accept and process birth certificate sex designation amendment applications….”

The logic for this emergency rule defies the authority of a court injunction and boils down to a calculated political attack on some of Montana’s most marginalized citizens. It’s hard to imagine any other reason for this decision other than DPHHS seizing an opportunity to cruelly punish transgender Montanans for being who they are. It appears that DPHHS is attempting to create a loophole in the legal process in order to defy court orders and cause fear, despair, and anxiety.

The evidence is clear: restricting gender marker changes is extremely harmful. In a study published last month researchers found that that transgender and nonbinary youth with IDs that match their gender identity were 11 percent less likely to report a recent suicide attempt compared to those who were not able to change their gender marker on official documents. Suicide rates among transgender youth are among the highest in the nation. The findings from this study indicate that altering the way a person’s gender is reflected on legal documents is an effective way to protect the health and wellbeing of transgender youth.

By issuing this emergency ruling, DPHHS is attacking the authority of our independent court and is directly undermining its purpose of “improving and protecting the health, well-being and self-reliance of all Montanans.” This is a heinous attack on Montanans who are simply seeking to live their lives as their true and authentic selves. DPHHS’s decision to stop all processing of birth certificate sex designation amendment applications makes Montana one of the most restrictive states in the nation, providing no inroads to an essential self-determination process for transgender Montanans.

“This is a vicious and cruel attack on the transgender, nonbinary, and Two Spirit community,” said Shawn Reagor, Director of Equality at the Montana Human Rights Network. “The emergency rule was instigated without process, transparency, or public input. It is a direct violation of a court order and legislative direction. Most importantly, it is an entirely unnecessary and mean-spirited attack on the basic rights of Montana residents. All Montanans rely on having accurate documents that reflect who we are in order to live full and active lives in our communities. Removing transgender people’s ability to have those documents is dangerous and negatively impacts transgender Montanan’s health and their ability to participate in the civic process. We’re committed to doing everything in our power to overturn this rule and support the lives of transgender, nonbinary, and Two Spirit people that are members of our staff, our families and friends, and our state.”

Action Item

Please send an email to DPHHS Director Adam Meier at Tell him to repeal the emergency rule and allow transgender people to access accurate birth certificates in accordance with the court injunction. It is unacceptable that this decision was made without input from the public, transgender people, and medical experts in gender care.

Meier is a controversial appointee from Kentucky who was appointed to his position by the Gianforte administration in 2021. He has faced criticism due to his attempt to add work requirements to Kentucky’s Medicaid program and his actions during a hepatitis A outbreak in rural Kentucky.