By Brendan O'Brien
(Reuters) - A Montana judge on Thursday blocked the state from enforcing a new rule that prohibited transgender people from changing their gender on their birth certificate, local media reported.
The administrative rule, which went into effect on Saturday, allowed Montanians to change the sex listed on their birth certificate only if it was incorrect due to a data entry error and only if they could prove their gender through testing or DNA, according to online state records.
In a Billings courtroom on Thursday, District Judge Michael Moses ruled that a preliminary injunction he placed on a state law also applied to the new rule, the Billings Gazette newspaper reported.
"The preliminary injunction has always enjoined all aspects of (the law passed in 2021) and it cannot be circumvented by departmental action," Moses said in his ruling from the bench, the newspaper reported.
The ruling comes as transgender rights have emerged as a major front in the political landscape in the United States in the run-up to the 2022 midterm elections and while conservative lawmakers across the nation have passed a flurry of bills this year directed at transgender youth.
In April, Moses issued a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed by two transgender individuals against a state law that passed in 2021 requiring a gender-affirming surgery and court petition to be able to update the gender on birth certificate.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the two individuals, was not immediately available for comment. State officials were also not available for comment.
If Moses' injunction ultimately stands, the state will revert back to a 2017 rule that allowed people in Montana to change their gender on their birth certificate by simply filling out a form, the Billings Gazette reported.
(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Chicago; Editing by Marguerita Choy)