idaho's gonna idaho
Reading Time: 7 minutes Don't ask how long it took for that golden eagle topper to get fixed up, when I first moved here. (Daniel X. O'Neil, CC.)
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Idaho seems dead-set on becoming America’s most regressive state. This past decade, they’ve been fighting states like Indiana and Kentucky for a position at the bottom of every ranking of functionality that a society can possibly have. So I’m about ready to hear about an epic WIN, aren’t you? Today Lord Snow Presides over love winning, again.

idaho's gonna idaho
Don’t ask how long it took for that golden eagle topper to get fixed up, when I first moved here. (Daniel X. O’Neil, CC.)

The Newest Culture War.

We’re going to talk later on about why fundagelicals seem so hellbent on persecuting and harassing transgender people. In essence, this current crusade is their newest culture war.

And I’m sure the Christian bigots who came up with this culture war thought it’d be a sure thing. In particular, the tactic they’ve chosen probably sounded like a surefire way to punish their newest enemies for the crime of existing and wanting a full complement of human rights.

Remember when bigoted county clerks took it upon themselves to refuse to do their jobs for same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses? And culture warriors just took that whole cause and ran with it, spinning the whole matter into a cry of faux-persecution and pretending that they wanted the right to discriminate as some weird form of “religious liberty?” But then in court cases, we found out that all of these preening excuses boiled down to simple bigotry?

Something very similar is going on with transgender people.

Oh, Totally Christianity Is a Religion Of Love.

Two transgender women born in Idaho needed to get their birth certificates changed to reflect their true gender.

It’s a common enough need for folks in that community. A 2015 report tells us that most transgender people have either transitioned or at least want to one day. And that means their birth certificates aren’t correct.

In turn, that incorrect detail leads to abuses all its own. Only 11% of that survey’s respondents actually had their preferred name and gender on all of their legal documentations. Meanwhile, 68% of respondents said that none of their documentation was correct.

That documentation has a great deal to do with how culture warriors treat others. Remember bigots-for-Jesus and how hard they fought against same-sex couples gaining access to their right to obtain marriage licenses? In similar fashion, when legal or government authorities see documentation that doesn’t seem to match a person’s gender presentation, those authorities frequently feel entitled to abuse that person.

Strangely, “Jesus” isn’t helping Christians learn to treat anyone better. And extremist Christians dominate Idaho’s government at all levels. They’re all vying to out-hardcore each other, too.

And in their version of Christianity, someone they consider lower than themselves on the ladder of power becomes a safe target for abuse.

Birth of a Lawsuit.

So when these two women tried to get their birth certificates changed, both of them faced almost the full roster of abuse that transgender people can expect from the followers of the Prince of Peace and Lord of Love.

One woman detailed facing government-employed bigots who flung slurs at her. Another employee subjected the other woman to a dehumanizing argument about what gender should be put on her DMV-issued identification card.

The awesomely stupid part of this entire situation is that, as the judge writes in her decisionIdaho’s top-level officials acknowledged that their rules about birth certificate changes weren’t defensible. They freely admitted that their rules were unconstitutional. They just wanted a lawsuit to happen so they could get a court order. Once they had a court order, they could rush right out and fix everything. But gosh, they couldn’t do it until then.

The Party of Personal Responsibility strikes again!

Two Interesting Wrinkles.

Because Idaho admitted that their existing rules really weren’t defensible in the first place, the judge (U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale) didn’t really need to do much on that count. But she did raise two major issues going on in this lawsuit that I hadn’t thought about: amendment histories and the wording of the birth certificates themselves.

FIRST: Amendment Histories. Normally, when a birth certificate is updated or changed in Idaho, the change must be accompanied by an explanation of what was changed, why, and when. Only a few types of changes are exempt from this requirement. Under Idaho’s current rules, gender change would be one of the types that would require that explanation. And it shouldn’t be legal to force a transgender person to reveal something so potentially damaging and humiliating. It’d be a violation of their privacy, which the judge called “compelled speech,” and thus it’d violate the First Amendment.

So not only did the court order need to force Idaho to change its rules, but it also needed the state to add this particular type of change to their short list of exemptions for required explanations for all changes.

SECOND: Wording on the Certificate. Idaho’s birth certificates don’t actually list gender. They list sex. And that’s why Idaho workers have routinely turned down all requests for gender changes. A change to sex is only allowed if the applicant can show that someone made a misidentification at birth. All other reasons get an auto-decline. 

A Nicely-Written Response.

In response to that second point, the judge’s decision paper goes into a long and what appears to me to be a sensitive and accurate description of the differences between terms like sex and gender, as well as outlining what goes into a transition and what discriminations transgender people face on a daily basis. We’ve evolved in recent decades regarding how we conceptualize gender identity. Idaho needs to step into the glorious Present with everyone else. The proposed rules change would need to take those changes in understanding into account.

And the paper ends by telling Idaho to go ahead and redo their rules, with those aforementioned restrictions and admonitions. In fact, the state’s changes went into effect on April 6. This court case is hell and gone.

Of course, this very favorable outcome–which happened a couple of months ago–left one major matter hanging.

Remember the part about Idaho’s government basically asking for a court case to happen so they could be forced to do the right thing?

Well, court cases cost money.

And in this sort of situation, they cost a boatload of money.

And, well, lawyers like to get paid.

That loose end got tied up today. That’s what actually made the news.

Endgame: Hitting Them Where It Hurts.

The state will approve a USD$75k payment to the lawyers representing the two women in this case.

The state and the attorneys for the two women reached a settlement on the women’s attorney fees at $75,000, but the state acknowledged that if it went before a judge, the record would support a claim of more than $99,000.

“In my office’s view, the terms of the settlement are fair, and represent a significant savings to the state,” wrote Deputy Attorney General W. Scott Zanzig in a memo to the state Board of Examiners. . .

A pity these officials weren’t thinking about the taxpayers’ money when the lawsuit began. By recognizing what a federal judge noticed very quickly, the Deputy Attorney General could have saved Idahoans USD$75k at least by simply avoiding a court case.

WTF, Idaho? Here’s What.

I wrote about Idaho’s bigotry costing lawmakers back in 2013–this blog’s first year of life. That’s not the only time I’ve touched upon it, and it sure isn’t going to be the last. Idaho is determined to go down in American history as the most regressive state in the Union.

The Christians who control this state don’t care about the Great Command. They know they’re failing comically at the Great Commission, too. We’re very long past them caring about the hypocritical witness they present. They know quite well that we despise them. They might not be able to engage with why, but they know they’ll never make a sale with us.

None of that matters. Not to them.

Right now, they’re fighting for their tribe’s continued existence. That sense of peril is going to make them more determined–and maybe even dangerous, though hopefully only on a non-physical level. They don’t care who is going to get hurt as they jockey for whatever power they can still re-seize and get enshrined into law. It’s not that they ever really cared about the powerless and marginalized, no. But going forward, we can fully expect to see even less concern out of them.

Love Won. Again.

From inflicted economic hardship to sexual assault, culture warriors’ hatred burns brightly and has many outlets. They long ago stopped caring that they were ordered to nurture “the least of these brothers and sisters” by someone they consider a real live god. All they know is that they can’t go about their day unless they can abuse someone. Transgender people are the current favorites for that post.

The side of hatred has been denied.

And this last little fillip of denial just makes me so happy.

Hopefully these zealots will continue to be denied.

Today, Lord Snow Presides over a decent win for the side of love and inclusion. 

NEXT UP: Oh, it’s gonna be a busy week around here. We’ve got at least one post coming about belief, plus–by popular demand–a story that reopens the Unequally Yoked Club series, and of course a look back at the blog’s first year of life when we were hashing out culture wars. There ain’t enough hours in the day! And I hope you’ll share some of them with me–see you next time!


1 Though bisexual people definitely fall under this culture war, the culture warriors themselves tend to ignore their existence.

John Pieret weighs in

The only thing to add is that the new rules require no medical proof of the person’s transgender status, which puts it among the most liberal states when it comes to changing gender markers. Around 20% of states will only make the change upon proof of the applicant’s “sex” has been changed by surgical procedure. Many others require an affidavit or a letter from a doctor confirming a diagnosis that the person is transgender. By holding out, the Christofascists wound up giving up the means they could have used to make the process as difficult as possible, a tactic that they so love to apply to abortion.

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Lord Snow Presides… is our weekly off-topic chat series. I’ve started us off with a topic, but feel free to chime in with whatever’s on your mind! Lord Snow is my sweet, elderly white cat, who makes sure the sun rises each morning without fail.

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ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...