Government & Politics

Kansas to allow transgender people to change their gender on birth certificates

Kansas has become the 48th state in America to allow transgender people to change the sex designations on their birth certificates.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has entered a consent judgment in a federal lawsuit to allow people to legally change the gender in their birth records by submitting a personal sworn statement of gender identity.

In addition, they would have to provide a drivers license or passport with their new identity, or an affidavit from a physician or mental health professional attesting to the person’s gender identity.

The doctor would have to certify that “based on his or her professional opinion the true gender identity of the applicant and that it is expected that this will continue to be the gender with which the applicant will identify in the future,” the consent judgment said.

The lawsuit, filed by three transgender Kansas residents and the Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project, alleged that state policy against changing the gender on birth records violated the equal protection and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

The consent judgment noted that a federal court found the state of Idaho had “violate[d] the Equal Protection Clause by failing to provide an avenue for transgender people to amend the sex listed on their birth certificates.”

“It’s very significant. It’s something that just needed to happen,” Luc Bensimon, one of the plaintiffs, said.

The lawsuit said that although “Bensimon was assigned female at birth, he is male.”

In 2010 he changed his name and the gender listed on his drivers license and with the Social Security Administration.

But without a birth certificate that reflected his gender identity, Bensimon was left more susceptible to discrimination, the lawsuit contended.

“I’m overwhelmed, but I’m excited. I’m happy,” Bensimon said.

Tom Witt, director of Equality Kansas, said he was ecstatic over the agreement and said it’s a big day in the lives of transgender individuals in Kansas.

Not having the ability to get a birth certificate that reflects their identity hampered transgender people born in Kansas from obtaining drivers licenses in other states and, in some cases, made it more difficult for them to register to vote, he said.

“There are no protections from discrimination for transgender people in Kansas,” Witt said. “Yet every trans person has had to out themselves as being trans in every job interview because they’ve had to provide birth certificates that don’t reflect who they are.”

The consent judgment noted that problem, citing a Puerto Rico case that found the U.S.. territory violated the constitutional right to privacy with its ban on changing birth records because it “forced disclosure of a transgender person’s most private information” which “is not justified by any legitimate government interest.”

“It was time for Kansas to move past its outdated and discriminatory anti-transgender policy,” Gov. Laura Kelly said in a statement Monday. “This decision acknowledges that transgender people have the same rights as anyone else, including the right to easily obtain a birth certificate that reflects who they are.”

The governor also hailed the late Stephanie Mott, the transgender woman who initially sued Kansas to try to change her birth certificate.

“Her advocacy to make Kansas better is remembered in this important decision and in other progress she achieved for transgender people,” Kelly said.

Ohio and Tennessee still do not allow people to change the gender on their birth certificates.

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Senior Journalist Dion Lefler has been providing award-winning coverage of local government, politics and business in Wichita for 20 years. Dion hails from Los Angeles, where he worked for the LA Daily News, the Pasadena Star-News and other papers. He’s a father of twins, director of lay servant ministries in the United Methodist Church and plays second base for the Old Cowtown vintage baseball team.