- The Magazine
Transgender residents of Kansas will now be able to change the gender marker on their birth certificates to reflect their gender identity.
That change comes under a consent judgment by state officials and transgender plaintiffs who sued the state over its previous policy blocking such changes.
Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit in October 2018 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas on behalf of four transgender plaintiffs — Nyla Foster, Luc Bensimon, Jessica Hicklin, and a client known as “C.K.” — and a transgender advocacy group, the Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project.
As part of the consent judgment, the court orders the Secretary for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, as well as other state government officials, to provide accurate birth certificates reflecting the correct gender identity of transgender individuals.
Under the agreement, the state agrees that its previous policy was unconstitutional and violated people’s rights under the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.
“I’m glad to see the state of Kansas has agreed to recognize us for who we are,” Foster, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, said in a press conference Monday morning. “It should have not taken a lawsuit to reach that conclusion. This judgment makes me feel safer and like my state finally recognizes me and respects me as a woman. I am proud that transgender Kansans like me will no longer be forced into dangerous situations because their identity documents do not match who they are.”
According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, almost one-third of transgender individuals who showed an identity document with a name or gender marker that did not match their perceived gender were harassed, denied benefits or services, discriminated against, or assaulted.
Those wishing to amend the gender marker on their birth certificate may do so by submitting a sworn statement, accompanied by a passport or driver’s license with their correct gender, or a letter from a health care professional attesting to their correct gender identity.
Lambda Legal hailed the consent agreement as a “tremendous victory” for transgender people in the state.
“This court-issued judgment builds not only on our recent court victories striking down similar policies prohibiting transgender people born in Idaho and Puerto Rico from having accurate birth certificates, but also upon years of advocacy by transgender Kansans,” Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a senior attorney with Lambda Legal, said in a statement. “With this judgment Kansas will now finally be in line with the rest of the country, where already 47 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico have acknowledged the importance of individuals having access to essential identity documents that accurately reflect who they are.”
Activists hope to build on their success in Kansas by toppling similar prohibitions on amending gender markers on identity documents that currently remain in place in Ohio and Tennessee. Lawsuits have been filed in both states challenging such prohibitions as discriminatory and unconstitutional.
“As a transgender Black man living with a disability, I experience discrimination and embarrassment often, but a birth certificate inconsistent with who I am only made things harder,” Bensimon said in a statement. “It is a huge relief to finally have an accurate birth certificate that is a true reflection of who I am.”
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