News (USA)

A Kansas court just made life harder for transgender people of all ages

Kris Kobach at a Donald Trump rally in 2018
Kris Kobach at a Donald Trump rally in 2018 Photo: Shutterstock

A Kansas judge’s ruling has laid the groundwork to block trans people from changing the gender listed on their birth certificates.

On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Crabtree revoked an agreement that he issued in 2019 allowing trans people to change the gender on their birth certificates. Crabtree issued the agreement to settle a lawsuit filed by four trans residents against state health officials.

However, state Attorney General Kris Kobach (R) recently asked Crabtree to revoke the agreement. Kobach asked this to help state officials enforce Senate Bill 180, a state law passed in April. Senate Bill 180 bans trans people from bathrooms, locker rooms, prisons, domestic violence shelters, and rape crisis centers matching their gender identity.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) vetoed Senate Bill 180, but the Republican-led legislature overrode her veto. The law went into effect in July. But in his Thursday decision, Crabtree said that a state court will have to decide whether his ruling and the new law are constitutional. If that court decides in Kobach’s favor, Kansas will join Tennessee and Oklahoma in forbidding trans people from changing gender markers on government-issued documents.

Changing the gender on a birth certificate is the first step to changing gender markers on a person’s government-issued ID documents, including driver’s licenses and passports. If a person’s gender marker doesn’t match their gender identity, it effectively outs a person as transgender, which can lead to difficulty accessing various services as well as harassment and violence.

Opponents of Kansas’ transphobic policies say that they discriminate on the basis of gender and sex, something the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutional. But it’s unclear whether Gov. Kelly will instruct government officials to stop changing gender markers on birth certificates or whether Kobach will need to secure an additional legal ruling to make it so.

Regardless, Kobach celebrated Crabtree’s Thursday ruling, saying, “Today’s decision is a rejection of the activists’ and Governor Kelly’s attempt to twist the English language beyond recognition. The court has told the governor what the law clearly means. We now expect the governor to follow the law and cease changing birth certificates to something other than biological sex at birth.”

If a future court upholds Crabtree’s ruling, it will only affect birth certificates going forward. That is, it will have no effect on 900 estimated birth certificates that were changed after the 2019 agreement went into effect.

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