Health Commissioner Resigns After Stitt’s Criticism Of Non-Binary Birth Certificate Settlement

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Oklahoma’s high public well being officer resigned Friday, a day after Gov. Kevin Stitt criticized “rogue activists” on the state Division of Well being for settling a federal lawsuit to permit a non-binary gender designation on state-issued start certificates.

Dr. Lance Frye mentioned it was an honor to steer the company throughout its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In his resignation letter, he mentioned it was time for him to maneuver on because the state strikes into an endemic part of the COVID-19 response and away from a pandemic response. 

“I like the dedication, resilience and tenacity of the OSDH crew,” Frye mentioned in an announcement Friday afternoon. “They’ve labored tirelessly during the last two years to make sure Oklahomans had entry to not solely COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and important info, however to different life-saving providers.”  

Stitt named Keith Reed because the interim well being commissioner. Reed was a deputy commissioner underneath Frye and has labored on the company for 19 years. Stitt lauded him earlier this yr for Oklahoma’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout, which had early successes however stalled in latest months as different states caught up. 

“In my tenure with OSDH, I’ve all the time admired the resilience of our workers and their dedication to remaining targeted on serving Oklahomans,” Reed mentioned in an announcement. “I look ahead to proceed working side-by-side with them as we proceed to maneuver ahead.” 

A settlement in a federal lawsuit to get the state to acknowledge a non-binary gender designation on start certificates on Thursday drew an uncommon rebuke from Stitt to the well being division, whose important data division points start and demise certificates. The case concerned an Oregon resident, Equipment Vivien Loreleid, who was born in Oklahoma and sought the designation on their start certificates. 

Stitt mentioned he didn’t imagine in a non-binary gender designation and that “individuals are created by God to be male or feminine. Interval.” 

“I wholeheartedly condemn the purported OSDH courtroom settlement that was entered into by rogue activists who acted with out receiving correct approval or oversight,” Stitt mentioned in Thursday’s assertion.  

GOP leaders within the Home and Senate mentioned such a change in coverage for start certificates needs to be as much as the Legislature. The well being division mentioned Thursday it entered into the settlement on the recommendation of former Lawyer Normal Mike Hunter, who left workplace in Might. The legal professional normal’s workplace represents most state businesses in lawsuits. 

Stitt’s workplace declined to remark Friday on whether or not Frye’s resignation was voluntary or he was requested to resign by the governor. Nonetheless, Stitt praised Frye in a information launch issued Friday afternoon, saying Frye offered regular management through the COVID-19 response. 

“With instances and hospitalizations down 60% in latest weeks, Dr. Frye has positioned the Oklahoma State Division of Well being nicely to proceed managing COVID successfully, and I’m grateful for his service to our state throughout an unprecedented time,” Stitt mentioned. 

Frye, in his resignation letter, touted the progress the well being division made underneath his tenure, together with a “modernization, transformation and reorganization” of the company. 

“With Oklahoma’s present COVID-19 tendencies persevering with to lower, our state is now set on a path to restoration,” Frye wrote. “Right now, OSDH is transitioning from a pandemic response to endemic surveillance, and the company’s transformation is nicely on its means. As Oklahoma and OSDH transfer into this subsequent part, I imagine it’s time for me to maneuver ahead as nicely.” 

Stitt appointed Frye as interim well being commissioner in Might 2020, and the state Senate confirmed him in April. Frye is an obstetrician/gynecologist who beforehand labored at Oklahoma State College Heart for Well being Sciences in Tulsa. He is also a lieutenant colonel within the Oklahoma Air Nationwide Guard and is the State Air Surgeon. 

Paul Monies has been a reporter with Oklahoma Watch since 2017. He covers state businesses and public well being. Name or textual content him at (571) 319-3289 or e-mail pmonies@oklahomawatch.org. Comply with him on Twitter at @pmonies. 

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