PIERRE S.D. — A South Dakota lawmaker has introduced a bill that would prohibit transgender persons from updating the gender designation on their birth certificates, a process currently legal in the state, and instead affix what the legislation terms an "immutable" definition of sex at the time of birth.
Rep. Fred Deutsch, a Republican from rural Brookings, Deuel and Codington Counties, introduced the measure this week and says his bill prohibiting what he calls a "subjective identification of sex" will be slated for debate in the House Health and Human Services Committee in the next two weeks.
Asked on Friday, Jan. 22, if the bill would be legal, given the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed gender discrimination in the workplace and has generally been approving in recent years of widening, not restricting, rights for the LGBTQ community, Deutsch told Forum News Service in an email, "You have to ask the lawyers that."
Deutsch's bill defines "sex" in a lengthy passage as, "the immutable biological and physiological characteristics -- specifically, the chromosomes and internal and external reproductive anatomy -- that are genetically determined at conception and generally recognizable at birth, and which define a person as being male or female." The bill also instructs a birth certificate "must," rather than "shall" designate sex at time of birth.
The text of the bill refers to a split in federal courts on allowing for transgender persons to update birth certificates, though it's not clear from the bill's text in which circuit that split appears.
In July, the West Virginia Supreme Court upheld a county judge's denial of a minor who'd petitioned for a sex change on their birth certificate following a gender alignment procedure.
Deutsch's legislation, House Bill 1076, is backed by a group of lawmakers, including eight Republican representatives and three senators, some of whom have advocated for such measures that have failed in past legislative cycles at the Statehouse in Pierre, S.D.
Last year, lawmakers introduced a measure that would've prevented persons younger than 16 from receiving surgery or medication to align their gender identity. That bill was defeated.
On Friday, the South Dakota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union issued a press statement condemning the bill.
"Forcing transgender South Dakotans to go through life with inaccurate birth certificates -- a basic form of identification -- unnecessarily exposes them to discrimination, harassment and violence," the ACLU said.
It's uncertain how many other similar pieces of legislation will come forth, as next the state's lawmakers are only finishing their second of a 10-week session. Feb. 3 marks the final day lawmakers may introduce "individual" bills, according to the legislative calendar.