Trans people’s rush to alter their Kansas licenses created a ‘safety concern,’ a judge says

Jul 12, 2023, 12:57 PM

This image from the Kansas Department of Revenue shows a sample driver's license issued by the stat...

This image from the Kansas Department of Revenue shows a sample driver's license issued by the state's Division of Vehicles, first produced in June 2021. A new Kansas law will prevent transgender people from changing the listing for their sex on the license to match their gender identities. (Kansas Department of Revenue via AP)

(Kansas Department of Revenue via AP)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The nearly 200 transgender people who rushed in recent weeks to change the sex listings on their driver’s licenses created an immediate “public safety concern,” a state-court judge declared Wednesday in keeping in place a ban on those changes.

The state agency that issues Kansas driver’s licenses failed Wednesday to persuade District Judge Teresa Watson that she’d made a mistake in imposing the ban two days earlier. Watson’s latest order means that Kansas remains for now one of only a few U.S. states that won’t change transgender people’s licenses to reflect their gender identities.

The ban is a legal victory for the state’s Republican attorney general, Kris Kobach. an announcement last month from Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. The department stopped the changes when Watson imposed the ban.

The ban is set to expire July 24, but Watson’s order indicated that she plans to have another hearing on whether she should extend it. In defending the ban, Watson said a key piece of evidence came from the department itself, data showing that the department changed 172 licenses in June alone or a third of all the changes made in the past four years.

“Licenses are used by law enforcement to identify criminal suspects, crime victims, wanted persons, missing persons and others,” Watson wrote. “Compliance with legal requirements for identifying license holders is a public safety concern.”

After lawmakers enacted the law, driver’s license changes accelerated in May and June as LGBTQ+ rights advocates encouraged people to do it ahead of the new law.

Watson added that allowing license changes to continue would represent an immediate injury to the state and “the immediacy is supported by information” from the department.

The judge had a Zoom hearing Wednesday from Shawnee County, the home of the state capital of Topeka, to consider a request from the Department of Revenue to lift her ban.

With the Kobach’s lawsuit in its early stages, Watson has yet to hear directly from transgender people affected the dispute. However, five transgender Kansas residents, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, have asked to intervene in the lawsuit. Watson has yet to rule on that request.

One of them, Adam Kellogg, a 20-year-old University of Kansas student, briefly discussed a traffic stop that occurred when his driver’s license didn’t match his male identity.

“The officer examined my license for a prolonged period and seemed suspicious of my identity,” his statement said. “I would not have chosen to disclose my transgender status during that traffic stop. That experience made me uncomfortable and anxious about further interactions with state officials, including police officers.”

The Department of Revenue contends that the new law conflicts with an older one dealing specifically with driver’s licenses, in which license applicants are to provide their gender, not sex assigned at birth. And department attorney Ted Smith told Watson that the agency is bound by the older law on driver’s licenses and not “the attorney general’s legal theories.”

Montana and Tennessee also bar changes for transgender people, but their laws deal specifically with driver’s licenses.

The new Kansas law prevents the legal recognition of transgender people’s gender identities by defining male and female based on a person’s sex assigned at birth. Although it does not specifically mention driver’s licenses, Watson noted in her decision Wednesday that it applies to any state law or regulation.

Many critics of the new law view it as sloppily written, and the Department of Revenue argued that GOP lawmakers botched the job.

“It’s clear that they’re trying really hard to sort of go on the attack or at least show that they’re going on the attack against trans people,” said Jenna Bellemere, another 20-year-old transgender University of Kansas student. “But at the same time, they clearly lack the capability or the inclination to write any kind of actual functional legislation that makes sense.”


Follow John Hanna on Twitter:

National News

Associated Press

Plane that crashed, killing Rep. Peltola’s husband, had over 500 pounds of meat and antlers on board

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The small plane that crashed in rural Alaska earlier this month, killing the husband of U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, was carrying more than 500 pounds of moose meat and antlers from a remote hunting camp when it went down shortly after takeoff, according to an investigation report released Thursday. Eugene Peltola […]

17 minutes ago

Associated Press

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signs law to raise minimum wage for fast food workers to $20 per hour

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California fast food workers will be paid at least $20 per hour next year under a new law signed Thursday by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom. When it takes effect on April 1, fast food workers in California will have among the highest minimum wages in the country, according to data compiled […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Menendez will address Senate colleagues about his bribery charges as calls for his resignation grow

WASHINGTON (AP) — With calls for his resignation increasing, New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez is expected on Thursday to address his Democratic Senate colleagues for the first time since he was indicted on federal bribery charges. More than half of Senate Democrats have said he should step down. But Menendez, who is scheduled to speak […]

2 hours ago

FILE - Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in h...

Associated Press

Colleges should step up their diversity efforts after affirmative action ruling, the government says

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is asking America’s colleges to renew their efforts to make campuses more racially diverse, urging schools to boost scholarships and minority recruiting and to give “meaningful consideration” to the adversity students face because of their race or finances. The Education Department Supreme Court decision in June barring colleges from […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Jury to decide fate of delivery driver who shot YouTube prankster following him

LEESBURG, Va. (AP) — Defense attorneys argued Thursday that their client was acting in self defense when he shot a YouTube prankster who followed him around a mall food court earlier this year. The jury began deliberations in the trial of Alan Colie, 31, a DoorDash driver charged with aggravated malicious wounding and firearms counts […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Search for man who police say shot deputy and another person closes schools in South Carolina

JOHNS ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — The daylong search for a man who investigators say shot two people, including a sheriff’s deputy, along the South Carolina coast led officials to close several schools Thursday. Deputies have been looking for Ernest Robert Burbage III on Johns Island since about noon Wednesday, when they said he fired shots, […]

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife...

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is a busy month on the sports calendar and also holds a very special designation: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziply Fiber...

Dan Miller

The truth about Gigs, Gs and other internet marketing jargon

If you’re confused by internet technologies and marketing jargon, you’re not alone. Here's how you can make an informed decision.

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Trans people’s rush to alter their Kansas licenses created a ‘safety concern,’ a judge says