NATIONAL NEWS

Kansas’ attorney general is moving to block trans people from changing their birth certificates

Jun 23, 2023, 9:58 PM | Updated: 10:44 pm

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Transgender people born in Kansas could be prevented from changing their birth certificates to reflect their gender identities if the state’s conservative Republican attorney is successful with a legal move he launched late Friday.

Attorney General Kris Kobach filed a request in federal court asking a judge to end a requirement for Kansas to allow transgender people to change their birth certificates.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree imposed the requirement in 2019 to settle a lawsuit filed by four transgender Kansas residents against three state health department officials over a policy that critics said prevented transgender people from making changes even after transitioning, legally changing their names and obtaining new driver’s licenses and Social Security cards.

It wasn’t clear whether Kobach’s effort would succeed, given a dismissed a lawsuit challenging one of the nation’s few remaining state policies against such changes.

Kobach’s move appears to be in keeping with a new, sweeping Kansas law taking effect July 1 that rolls back transgender rights and was enacted by the Republican-controlled Legislature over Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto. A memo filed electronically with the request by Kobach shortly before midnight cited the law as a reason to revisit the 2019 settlement.

The memo argued Crabtree’s order makes it “impossible” to follow the new state law and that since the Legislature “has spoken,” the state health department, which handles birth certificates, is now “bound to execute the law as written.”

Kobach already had scheduled a Monday afternoon news conference at the Statehouse to discuss 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 against birth certificate changes in the U.S. Kelly is a strong supporter of LGBTQ+ rights and her administration agreed to settle the lawsuit less than six months after she took office.

That decision came almost a year after Crabtree declared the Kansas policy violated transgender people’s constitutional rights to due legal process and equal treatment under the law. His order notes that federal courts in Idaho and Puerto Rico had struck down no-change policies. Kobach’s memo called those rulings outdated.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and the LGBTQ+-rights legal group Lambda Legal, representing 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 rethink the wisdom — and the sheer indecency — of this attempt to weaponize his office’s authority to attack transgender Kansans just trying to live their lives.”

The new Kansas law is designed to prevent transgender people from using restrooms, locker rooms and other single-gender facilities associated with their identities. At least nine other states have such laws, mostly focused on public schools.

Kobach has said he believes the new Kansas law also prevents transgender people from changing their driver’s licenses, though the law contains no specific enforcement mechanisms. Lawmakers wrote the bill so it could prevent transgender people from changing their birth certificates, except for the 2019 federal court order, without specifically mentioning either birth certificates or driver’s licenses.

For weeks, a project of Kansas Legal Services, a nonprofit law firm, encouraged transgender Kansans to change their driver’s licenses before the new law took effect. Kelly’s administration, which oversees the licensing of drivers, hasn’t said whether it believes such changes would still be allowed under the new law.

Ellen Bertels, the attorney spearheading the effort, said that while a transgender person could sue after the law takes effect to protect people’s right to change their driver’s licenses, a lawsuit from a state official against Kelly’s administration could seek to prevent such changes.

“That’s it’s kind of the obvious place that they would end up,” Bertels said.

As for birth certificates, the small number of states not allowing transgender people to change them has shrunk because of federal court challenges like the one in Kansas. In Oklahoma, GOP Gov. Kevin Stitt is being sued over his 2021 order barring such changes.

The ACLU of Montana plans to challenge a rule imposed there last year barring people from changing the sex listed on their birth certificates, according Alex Rate, one of its attorneys. The state has tightened its rules since GOP Gov. Greg Gianforte took office in 2021.

Previously, starting in 2017 when Democrat Steve Bullock was governor, Montana allowed transgender people to change their birth certificates by filling out an affidavit.

LGBTQ+ rights advocates say changing birth certificates, driver’s licenses and other records to reflect a transgender person’s gender identity is key to affirming their identities and often greatly improves their mental health.

Policies against changing birth certificates and other documents have practical implications for transgender residents, too. For example, Kansas requires voters to show a photo ID at the polls or when obtaining an absentee ballot.

Critics of the new Kansas law contend it is designed to legally erase transgender people.

It declares state law recognizes only two genders, 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 ova,” while a male only is someone with a system “designed to fertilize the ova of a female.”

The law then declares “important governmental objectives” of protecting people’s health safety and privacy justify having sex-segregated spaces in line with those definitions.

___

Associated Press Writer Amy Hanson in Helena, Montana, contributed to this story.

___

Follow John Hanna on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apjdhanna

National News

President Joe Biden raises the hand of Vice President Kamala Harris after viewing the Independence ...

Associated Press

Kamala Harris is now in a bright spotlight as she fights to secure the Democratic presidential nod

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris is being thrust into the most scrutinizing of spotlights, suddenly the leading candidate to succeed party’s main hope of defeating Republican Donald Trump. She spoke multiple times with Biden on Sunday, according to people familiar with the conversations – a day after Biden huddled with his closest aides […]

53 minutes ago

Associated Press

Biden’s decision to drop out leaves Democrats across the country relieved and looking toward future

HARPER WOODS, Mich. (AP) — After weeks of uncertainty about who would be at the top of the Democratic Party’s ticket in November, many voters expressed relief over the news that President Joe Biden would drop his reelection bid and began to think about who might replace him in a dramatically altered election landscape. Jerod […]

1 hour ago

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, ...

Associated Press

Trump’s campaign quickly pivots to Harris after Biden announces decision to leave the race

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s campaign has spent the last year-and-a-half viciously attacking Joe Biden, ridiculing his policies, mocking his fumbles and relishing a rematch they felt they were winning. But they have also spent weeks preparing for the possibility that Biden might exit the race, readying a bevy of attacks against Vice President […]

1 hour ago

FILE - President Joe Biden listens as Vice President Kamala Harris speaks in the Rose Garden of the...

Associated Press

Democrats promise ‘orderly process’ to replace Biden, where Harris is favored but questions remain

WASHINGTON (AP) — Shortly after President Joe Biden announced Sunday that he would drop his reelection campaign, Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison had a message: There would be no automatic coronation for his replacement. “In the coming days, the party will undertake a transparent and orderly process to move forward,” Harrison said in a […]

2 hours ago

First lady Jill Biden, left, and second gentleman Douglass Emhoff, right, watch as President Joe Bi...

Associated Press

Biden’s decision to drop out crystalized Sunday. His staff knew one minute before the public did

WASHINGTON (AP) — At 1:45 p.m. Sunday, President Joe Biden’s senior staff was notified that he was stepping away from the 2024 race. At 1:46 p.m., that message was made public. It was never Biden’s intention to leave the race: Up until he decided to step aside Sunday, he was all in. His campaign was […]

2 hours ago

A sign is placed in front of the U.S. Naval Observatory, where Vice President Kamala Harris lives, ...

Associated Press

Democrats are rallying around Harris as she vows to ‘earn and win’ party nomination for president

Democrats quickly rallied around Vice President Kamala Harris as their likely presidential nominee Sunday after President Joe Biden ‘s ground-shaking decision to bow out of the 2024 race. But the fast-moving political situation remained volatile just months before the November election. Shortly after Biden stepped aside he firmly endorsed Harris, who would make history as […]

3 hours ago

Kansas’ attorney general is moving to block trans people from changing their birth certificates