Kansas judge says barring driver’s license changes doesn’t violate trans people’s rights

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TOPEKA, Kan. — A Kansas judge ruled Monday that nan authorities isn’t violating transgender residents’ authorities nether nan authorities constitution by refusing to alteration their driver’s licenses to bespeak their gender identities.

District Judge Teresa Watson kept successful spot indefinitely an bid she first issued successful July 2023 to forestall nan Kansas Department of Revenue from changing nan listing for “sex” connected transgender people’s driver’s licenses. Attorney General Kris Kobach, a blimpish Republican, sued Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s management to extremity specified changes successful statement pinch a 2023 rule that ended ineligible recognition of transgender people’s identities.

Watson allowed transgender Kansas residents to intervene successful Kobach’s lawsuit, and nan American Civil Liberties Union based on connected their behalf that nan no-changes argumentation violated authorities protected by nan Kansas Constitution. The Kansas Supreme Court declared successful 2019 that nan authorities constitution grants a correct to bodily autonomy, though nan determination dealt with abortion rights, not LGBTQ rights.

Watson said invoking nan correct to bodily autonomy to require nan authorities to alteration driver’s licenses would beryllium “an unreasonable stretch.” She said Kansas residents do not person a basal correct nether nan authorities constitution to “control what accusation is displayed connected a state-issued driver’s license.”

“Information recorded connected a driver’s licence does not interfere pinch transgender persons’ expertise to power their ain bodies aliases asseverate bodily integrity aliases self-determination,” Watson wrote in her 31-page order, issued successful Shawnee County, location to nan authorities superior of Topeka.

Kelly supports LGBTQ rights. After she took agency successful 2019, her management allowed transgender group to alteration their driver’s licenses and commencement certificates to bespeak their gender identities.

The Republican-controlled Legislature overrode her veto to enact the 2023 law, and transgender group tin nary longer change either personality document, acknowledgment to Kobach’s efforts.

It’s not clear whether Kelly’s management aliases transgender Kansas residents will entreaty Watson’s ruling. D.C. Hiegert, an ACLU of Kansas LGBGQ ineligible chap who is trans, predicted that Watson’s ruling will lead to transgender group being harassed and denied services.

“What imaginable logic tin we articulate to contradict our transgender organization bid of mind?” added Pedro Irigonegaray, a Topeka lawyer representing nan Kelly administration. “Why this vindictive cognition towards this people of individuals?”

The Kansas rule was portion of a activity of measures from GOP-controlled Legislatures crossed nan U.S. to rotation backmost transgender rights. Montana, North Dakota and Tennessee besides enacted laws defining man and woman, and Republican governors issued executive orders successful Nebraska and Oklahoma, where nonbinary teen Nex Benedict was bullied and died aft a conflict successful a girls bath astatine a school. Similar measures person been projected in at slightest 13 different states.

The Kansas rule doesn’t mention driver’s licenses aliases commencement certificates but says for nan purposes of immoderate authorities rule aliases regulation, a person’s activity is “either antheral aliases female,” based connected their “biological reproductive system” identified astatine birth. Watson ruled that nan law’s connection is clear and “there are nary exceptions.”

Kobach said successful a statement: “This determination is simply a triumph for nan norm of rule and communal sense.”

Watson’s ruling came nan time earlier nan Kansas House planned to statement a proposed prohibition connected gender-affirming care for transgender minors, thing astatine slightest 23 different states person done. A last House ballot was expected Wednesday.

“We will proceed moving toward a imagination of our authorities that allows each of america to unrecorded successful peace, free from authorities persecution and impositions connected our halfway identities,” Hiegert said successful a statement.

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