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Idaho to Pay $320,000 in Legal Fees Over Transgender Birth Certificate Law

— August 11, 2022

Idaho had earlier passed a law that would have made it effectively impossible for transgender persons to change the gender listed on their birth certificate.

A federal judge has ordered the state of Idaho to pay an estimated $320,000 in legal fees related to a bill the Idaho Legislature passed in 2020 that affected birth certificate changes.

According to The Idaho Capital Sun, the matter was heard before the Board of Examiners Subcommittee on Tuesday and will be forwarded to the full board for a vote on Tuesday.

The state Board of Examiners, adds the Capital Sun, is comprised of the governor, attorney general, state controller, and the secretary of state.

The subcommittee, conversely, is made up of appointees from each of the aforementioned elected officials’ offices.

On Tuesday, the subcommittee approved the request for payment, but referred the funding request to the state Legislature as a “supplemental appropriation.”

Idaho Capitol Building
Idaho Capitol Building; image courtesy of JSquish via Wikimedia Commons,

The Capital Sun adds that the lawsuit which compelled the payment relates to Idaho’s passage of House Bill 509 in 2020, which would have required that certain vital statistics be recorded in birth certificates. The law would have also provided guidance and limitations on how birth certificates may be amended.

Critically, H.B. 509 would have prevented transgender people from seeking to change their genders after they “transition” or otherwise wish to begin living life as a member of a different gender.

However, in 2020, a federal magistrate barred the state from any attempt to automatically reject applications from transgender petitioners and went so far as to require that the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare “institute a meaningful and constitutionally-sound process for accepting, reviewing, and considering applications from transgender individuals to amend the gender listed on their birth certificates.”

While the state had tried to argue that transgender persons could still petition the courts to amend their birth certificates, a federal judge found that H.B. 509 provided no reasonable avenue for challenges.

“The plain language of the statute, as quoted, forecloses any avenue for a transgender individual to successfully challenge the sex listed on their Idaho birth certificate to reflect their gender identity,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale wrote in an August 2020 order.

A group of LGBT advocacy organizations, including Lambda Legal, filed the initial lawsuit against the state, seeking a court order recognizing that H.B. 509 would be in violation of the state constitution.

While Lambda Legal and the plaintiffs had sought recompense of approximately $500,000, the court only approved reimbursement of legal fees of $231,224.50.

Idaho Deputy Attorney General Steven Olsen has asked that the Board of Examiners approve the payment promptly, so as to avoid any further penalties.

“[The defendants] request the Board authorize payment of the $321,224.50 award, plus accrued interest at the rate of 2.14% as provided in the court order. Any delays in payment of this amount will result in the State being responsible for the additional interest on this amount at that rate,” Olsen wrote in a letter to the Board of Examiners.


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