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Idaho bill targets transgender birth certificate changes

Legislation banning trans people from changing the sex listed on their birth certificate headed to the governor's desk on Tuesday.
The State Capitol building in Boise, Idaho
The State Capitol building in Boise, Idaho.Kailani Koenig / NBC News

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho legislation banning transgender people from changing the sex listed on their birth certificates despite a federal court ruling declaring such a law unconstitutional headed to the governor's desk on Tuesday, bringing the state closer to becoming one of less than a handful of states with such a restriction.

The Senate voted 27-6 to approve the measure that was overwhelmingly passed in the House last month.

A federal judge in March 2018 ruled that Idaho’s law barring transgender people from making the birth certificate change violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The judge scrapped the ban and warned against new rules.

Some senators who backed the bill said the federal court was wrong and were willing to risk an expensive lawsuit that the Idaho attorney general's office says could cost $1 million.

“I think we all understand what the costs and what the risks are in making the decision to go forward,” said Republican Sen. Jim Rice.

Backers said the legislation is needed because it's important that Idaho has accurate birth records.

Democratic Sen. Michelle Stennett said that only a tiny percentage of the population seeks to change the sex listed on their birth certificate.

“Honestly, for such a small part of the population we are going to be so punitive,” she said.

If it's signed into law by Republican Gov. Brad Little, it will almost certainly be challenged in court.

“Idaho lawmakers might as well try to tear down the federal courthouse if they have this much contempt for the rule of law,” Lambda Legal Counsel Peter Renn, a member of the legal team that obtained the court ruling in 2018, said in a statement immediately after the Senate vote.

Ohio and Tennessee are the only other states in the country where transgender people cannot change their birth certificates, Lambda Legal says.

In Idaho, it's another effort by the conservative state to target the population.

A separate measure banning transgender women from competing in women’s sports despite warnings that such a law is unconstitutional passed the Senate Monday and is a few technical procedures away from also heading to the governor's desk.

That measure would apply to all sports teams sponsored by public schools, colleges and universities. A girls’ or women’s team would not be open to transgender students who identify as female.

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