Kansas Attorney General Tries to Deny Changes to Transgender Birth Certificates


TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Transgender people born in Kansas could be barred from altering their birth certificates to reflect their gender identity if the conservative Republican prosecutor succeeds in a legal action he initiated late Friday.

Attorney General Kris Kobach filed a motion in federal court, asking the judge to drop the case a requirement that Kansas allows transgender people to change their birth certificates. He is not concerned with undoing past changes, only with preventing them in the future.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree in 2019 imposed a requirement to settle a lawsuit filed by four transgender Kansas residents against three officials from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. The lawsuit challenged a policy that critics said prevented transgender people from making changes, legally changing their name, and getting new driver’s licenses and Social Security cards even after the transition.

Luc Bensimon, a black transgender activist who was one of the plaintiffs in that lawsuit, said Saturday he has received calls and emails from people trying to alter their birth certificates and fears they are failing the process could complete.

“We didn’t just review this case so that he’s now trying to change it,” Bensimon said. “I thought that was already settled, but I have the energy to go back and revisit it if need be.”

It wasn’t clear if Kobach’s efforts would succeed in the face of success US Supreme Court decision in 2020 The declaration of a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in the workplace also prevents discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Also in 2020, federal judges in Idaho And Ohio has enacted rules prohibiting transgender people from altering their birth certificates. But federal judges are arriving this month Tennessee and Oklahoma dismissed challenges to two of the country’s few remaining government measures against such changes.

Kobach’s step seems to be consistent a new, comprehensive Kansas law The law goes into effect on July 1 and resets transgender rights. It was enacted by the Republican-controlled Legislature due to the veto of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. A memo filed electronically with Kobach’s application just before midnight cited the law as reason for a re-examination of the 2019 settlement.

Kelly’s office did not immediately respond Saturday asking for a response to Kobach’s decision.

The memo argued that Crabtree’s order made it “impossible” to follow the new state law and that the state health department, which administers birth certificates, was now “obligated to execute the law as written” since the legislature had “spoken.” .

Kobach had already scheduled a press conference at the Statehouse for Monday afternoon to discuss the enforcement of the new law.

Crabtree’s 2019 order blocked a policy imposed by former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration that was among the toughest anti-birth certificate change policies in the United States, of which Kelly is one a strong supporter of LGBTQ+ rights and her government agreed to settle the lawsuit less than six months after she took office.

That decision came nearly a year after Crabtree said the Kansas policy violated the constitutional right of transgender people to due process and equal treatment before the law. His order notes that federal courts in Idaho and Puerto Rico had rejected the no-change policy. Kobach’s memo called those judgments outdated.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and the LGBTQ+ rights group Lambda Legal, which represents the four Kansas residents, condemned Kobach’s move. Lamda Legal’s Omar Gonzalez-Pagan called it “unnecessary and cruel”.

Kansas ACLU executive director Micah Kubic added in a statement, “Mr. Kobach should reconsider the wisdom — and the sheer lewdness — of this attempt to weaponize his office’s authority to attack transgender Kansas just trying to get on with their lives.”

Kansas’ new law aims to prevent transgender people from using restrooms, locker rooms and other same-sex facilities related to their identity. At least nine other states have such laws, mostly focused on public schools.

Kobach said he believes Kansas’ new law will also prevent transgender people from changing their driver’s license, although the law does not provide specific enforcement mechanisms. Legislators drafted the bill so they can prevent transgender people from changing their birth certificates, except for the 2019 federal court order, without specifically mentioning birth certificates or driver’s licenses.

For weeks, a project by Kansas Legal Services, a nonprofit law firm, encouraged transgender people from Kansas to change their driver’s licenses before the new law went into effect. Kelly’s administration, which is responsible for licensing drivers, hasn’t said whether it thinks such changes would still be allowed under the new law.

Ellen Bertels, the attorney who led the effort, said that while a transgender person could sue after the law went into effect to protect people’s right to change their driver’s licenses, a lawsuit by a state official against Kelly’s government could be aimed at prevent such changes.

As for birth certificates, the number of states that don’t allow transgender people to alter them has shrunk due to previous challenges in federal courts like the one in Kansas.

Montana’s ACLU plans to challenge a rule introduced there last year that prohibits people from changing the gender listed on their birth certificates.

Advocates of LGBTQ+ rights say that changing birth certificates, driver’s licenses and other records to reflect a transgender person’s gender identity is key to confirming their identity and often vastly improves their mental health.

Policies against altering birth certificates and other documents also have practical implications for transgender residents. For example, Kansas requires voters to show photo identification when voting or obtaining an absentee ballot.

Critics of the new Kansas law say it aims to legally exclude transgender people.

It states that state law recognizes only two sexes, male and female, and defines them based on a person’s “biological reproductive system” at birth. A woman is someone whose system is “designed to produce eggs,” while a man is just someone whose system is “designed to fertilize a woman’s eggs.”

The law then states that “important government objectives” to protect people’s health, safety and privacy justify the establishment of gender-segregated spaces consistent with these definitions.

Associated Press writer Amy Hanson of Helena, Montana contributed to this story.

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