Kansas Judge Orders Halt to Change Gender Markers on Driver’s Licenses for Transgender Individuals

In a recent development, a state-court judge in Kansas has issued an order to cease allowing transgender individuals to change the sex listed on their driver’s licenses. The ruling comes as part of a lawsuit filed by Kansas’ Republican attorney general, Kris Kobach, against officials in Governor Laura Kelly’s administration.

This decision marks a significant departure from the state’s previous practice, which permitted transgender people to change their gender markers on licenses for the past four years. Kansas now joins a small number of states that do not allow such changes.

Attorney General Kobach’s lawsuit was filed shortly after Governor Kelly announced her administration’s commitment to continue allowing driver’s license changes for transgender individuals, ensuring alignment between the sex listed on the license and their gender identity.

The lawsuit contends that a newly enacted law, effective July 1, prohibits these changes and mandates a reversal of any prior modifications. The law defines “male” and “female” in a manner that disregards the gender identities of transgender, nonbinary, or gender non-conforming people. Despite Governor Kelly’s veto, the Republican-controlled Legislature enacted the law.

District Judge Teresa Watson, in her order, emphasized the potential “immediate and irreparable injury” that would result from the continued changes to transgender individuals’ driver’s licenses by the motor vehicles division.

The tweet below verifies the news:

She acknowledged the challenge of retrieving or removing issued licenses once they are in circulation and highlighted the public safety concerns related to identifying license holders for law enforcement purposes.

Transgender residents of Kansas have expressed the complications they face when their gender identities do not match the information on their driver’s licenses. Instances such as airport security checks, interactions with law enforcement, and even everyday tasks like using credit cards can become challenging.

Advocates argue that the lack of consideration for the transgender population’s experiences and needs is frustrating and can potentially expose them to harassment.

Governor Kelly’s office is currently preparing a response to the order. Attorneys at the Kansas Department of Revenue, the parent agency of the motor vehicles division, maintain that allowing transgender people to change their driver’s licenses does not violate the new law.

Kansas’ new law stands out among states that typically allow changes to sex or gender markers on documents such as birth certificates and driver’s licenses. Montana and Tennessee have policies against changing either document, while Oklahoma has restrictions on altering birth certificates.

However, a federal lawsuit settlement in 2018 mandates that Kansas allow transgender people to change their birth certificates, with over 900 individuals availing themselves of this option by June.

The recently enacted law in Kansas defines a person’s sex as either male or female, based on their “biological reproductive system” at birth.

The law asserts that protecting privacy, health, and safety in single-sex spaces, such as bathrooms and locker rooms, is an essential governmental objective. Notably, the law does not contain any enforcement mechanism for this provision.

While this order specifically addresses driver’s licenses, the broader implications for transgender individuals’ daily lives remain unclear.

The ongoing legal battle and contrasting viewpoints underscore the challenges faced by the transgender community in securing recognition and affirming their identities through official documentation.

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