House Bill Prevents Trans South Dakotans From Updating Birth Certificate

Jan 25, 2021

On Tuesday, state lawmakers will hear a bill that prevents people from changing the sex listed on their birth certificates. 

The sponsor says it’s meant to clarify an inconsistency in the courts. Opponents say it would codify discrimination against the transgender community in South Dakota. 

Lawmakers in the House Health and Human Services committee will hear the bill at 8 a.m. on Tuesday .

Fred Deutsch of Watertown is the prime sponsor of the bill. He says judges in the state are divided on whether to grant a person the ability to change the sex on their birth certificate. 

“Our job as the legislature is to provide the judges an understanding of what our intent is,” Deutsch says. “In the interest of justice, we don’t want our judges providing different opinions over something as simple as can you change the sex on a birth certification.” 

This bill says you can’t. The bill would mean transgender people could not correct the gender marker on their birth certificates. 

The federal Ninth Circuit Court has permanently enjoined a similar law that prevents the Idaho Department of Health and Wellness to reject applications from transgender people to change the sex listed on their birth certificates. 

Deutsch has a history of bringing legislation the transgender community calls “blatant discrimination.”

Last session he brought a bill that would’ve criminalized gender confirmation surgery and puberty blockers for minors under 16. That bill passed the House and failed in a Senate committee. 

Jessica Cox is a co-chair with the South Dakota Transformation Project, a group that supports transgender youth and young adults and educates South Dakota communities about gender identity and expression. 

Cox says updating government documents is straightforward in South Dakota. 

“And there is clearly a process in place to update that,” Cox says. “This creates confusion because, if then, at this point, the birth certificate is the only government document that doesn’t match it basically creates a dangerous situation for transgender people as they’re seeking employment or housing or just trying to access the same resources any other South Dakotan would try to access.” 

The American Civil Liberties Union says Deutsch’s bill would force transgender South Dakotans to go through life with inaccurate birth certifications. They say it exposes them to discrimination, harassment and violence and denies them their identity.