- Republican Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach is pushing for a legal attempt to prevent gender reassignment surgery from being listed on state driver’s licenses.
- Five transgender people from Kans, represented by the state ACLU division, petitioned to intervene in the lawsuit. Kobach is against the application.
- “It’s a pretty clear case,” Kobach told reporters.
The Republican Attorney General in Kansas is working to stop transgender people from interfering in his state court lawsuit against changing the gender information on their state driver’s licenses. His efforts are already blocking further changes until at least November.
Attorney General Kris Kobach, his legal team and attorneys from the Kansas Department of Revenue were in court Thursday to set a timeline for the lawsuit. The Department’s Motor Vehicle Division issues driver’s licenses and has changed the gender of more than 900 people in the past four years.
Kobach argues that changing the driver’s license to reflect the gender identity of transgender people violates a state law stripping back the rights of transgender people, which went into effect on July 1. He sued two senior Treasury Department officials earlier this month after Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly announced the changes would continue despite the new state law.
KANSAS TRANS RESIDENTS RUSHING TO HAVE DRIVER’S LICENSE CHANGE HAVE CAUSED ‘SAFETY CONCERNS’, JUDGE SAYS
Five transgender residents of Kansas, represented by the state’s American Civil Liberties Union, are asking District Judge Teresa Watson to allow them to intervene in the lawsuit. Kobach said Thursday he rejected her request and Watson plans to rule on it after a hearing on Aug. 16.
Earlier this month, Watson granted Kobach’s request to block driver’s license changes while his lawsuit progresses. Both Kobach’s office and Treasury Department attorneys agreed that the rule should remain in place until at least another hearing, now scheduled for November 1.
During Thursday’s hearing in Shawnee County, home of the state capital Topeka, Kobach unsuccessfully urged Watson to proceed with the full hearing of his lawsuit as early as next month.
“It’s a pretty clear case,” Kobach told reporters. “The statute means what it says. They have a different interpretation of the law.”
As a result of Kobach’s lawsuit, Kansas is one of the few states, along with Montana, Oklahoma and Tennessee, that does not allow transgender residents to change their driver’s license. In a separate case in federal court, Kobach is also trying to prevent changes in the gender entries on Kansas birth certificates.
The new Kansas law defines male and female based on the gender assigned to a person at birth and states that these definitions apply to all other state laws or regulations, ending legal recognition of transgender people’s gender identities. Kobach claims that Kansas needs to reverse previous changes in its records. The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the law due to Kelly’s veto.
ACLU attorneys argue that the new law violates the rights of transgender people under the Kansas Constitution, including their rights to privacy and bodily autonomy.
“When we try to accomplish something very simple like interpreting laws, we ignore the reality that transgender Kansans face every day in this state,” Sharon Brett, the ACLU’s Kansas attorney director, said after the hearing.
In interviews, transgender Kansas residents have said that having a driver’s license with a gender entry that doesn’t match their gender identity makes it harder to get through airport security, negotiate a traffic stop, or even use a credit card. They’ve also said interactions with others publicly portray them as transgender — and potentially jeopardize their safety.
In a court filing, Kathryn Redman, a 62-year-old Kansas City resident, said that before she changed her Kansas driver’s license in 2021, she underwent “invasive scans of the genital area of my body” before boarding flights.
“I frequently received rude comments and always felt uncomfortable in public areas that required showing my driver’s license,” she said.
Federal judge examines Kansas governor’s arguments in issuing birth certificate to transgender people
Kobach said after Thursday’s hearing that transgender people’s legal claims are premature because Watson has not yet ruled on whether driver’s license changes violate the new state law. He said his first task would be to examine the meaning of the new law.
“There will be more than enough time to consider constitutional issues,” he said.
Treasury Department lawyers have argued that the new law conflicts with an older law that specifically deals with driver’s licenses and that the agency remains obliged to follow the older law. The department supports giving transgender people the opportunity to intervene in the case.
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“As Treasury Department, we are not in a position to adequately address these concerns,” Pedro Irigonegaray, one of the attorneys, said after Thursday’s hearing.
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