Metro Weekly

Transgender woman sues Kansas over refusal to amend birth certificate

Lawsuit claims Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment's internal policy is unlawful and unconstitutional

Stephanie Mott (Photo: Transgender Law Center).

Stephanie Mott – Photo: Transgender Law Center

A transgender woman in Kansas is suing the state Department of Health and Environment over an internal policy under which they deny all requests from transgender people asking to change the gender marker on their birth certificates.

The plaintiff at the center of the case, 58-year-old Stephanie Mott submitted a request for an amended birth certificate on Dec. 14, 2015. But the Department of Health and Environment rejected the request just a month later. Transgender Law Center and lawyers representing Mott have filed a petition in state court challenging that denial.

“One of the first things I ever knew about myself is that I’m a girl, but to this day, the state of Kansas refuses to update my birth certificate to reflect who I truly am,” Mott said in a statement. “It’s so important for me that my birth certificate reflect my authentic self. Having accurate identity documents is not only a matter of human dignity but also an issue of safety. I shouldn’t have to out myself as transgender every time I apply for a job or when I register to vote.”

Kansas had a long-standing regulation that allowed transgender people to request a change of gender on their birth certificates and until 2012, the Department of Health would generally comply with those requests. But a year into the first term of Gov. Sam Brownback (R), who vehemently opposes LGBT rights, an internal policy was adopted without repealing or altering the previous regulation: All requests for amendments to the certificates from transgender people were rejected out of hand.

The petition filed by Mott’s lawyers argues that the policy violates state law by failing to comply with the existing regulation. They also claims that the denial violates the constitutional right to equal protection and right to privacy, in terms of the ability to decide when and to whom to disclose one’s transgender status.

“Everyone needs access to identity documents that reflect who we really are,” Ilona Turner, legal director of Transgender Law Center, said in a statement. “The state’s brand-new policy of refusing to allow transgender people to update the gender marker on their birth certificates is patently unlawful and unconstitutional.”

“This policy is an extreme outlier — every state except Kansas, Idaho, and Tennessee will give transgender people new birth certificates that correctly state their gender…. This policy serves no purpose other than to discriminate.”

For Mott, it’s a question of principle.

“It took me 48 years of struggle to embrace my authentic self and start living as the woman I’ve always known I am,” Mott said in a statement. “I just want my government to respect who I am and stop trying to make me live as someone I’m not.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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