Kansas Judge Rules State Can Prevent Driver’s License Changes For “Trans” Individuals

A Kansas judge ruled Monday that the state isn’t violating transgender residents’ rights under the state constitution by refusing to change their driver’s licenses to reflect their gender identities.

District Judge Teresa Watson kept in place indefinitely an order she first issued in July 2023 to prevent the Kansas Department of Revenue from changing the listing for “sex” on transgender people’s driver’s licenses.

“Information recorded on a driver’s license does not interfere with transgender person’s ability to control their own bodies or assert bodily integrity or self-determination,” Watson wrote in her 31-page order, issued in Shawnee County, home to the state capital of Topeka.

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Watson added that to apply the SCOTUS ruling to the no-change policy on state-issued IDs would be “an unreasonable stretch.”

“It did not say Kansans have a fundamental state constitutional right to control what information is displayed on a state-issued driver’s license,” Watson continued. “And the Intervenors’ testimony at the hearing was that producing a driver’s license indicating a sex different than their expressed gender did not result in physical violence, verbal harassment, loss of employment, loss of benefits, refusal of service, or negative interaction with law enforcement. Rather, Intervenors testified about feeling embarrassed, humiliated, or unsafe if someone gave them a puzzled look, hesitated, or questioned their identity when looking at their driver’s license.”

Attorney General Kris Kobach, a conservative Republican, sued Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s administration to stop such changes in line with a 2023 law that ended legal recognition of transgender people’s identities.

“This decision is a victory for the rule of law and common sense,” Kobach said. “The Legislature wisely stated that state agencies should record biological sex at birth, and today the court held that the meaning of the law is clear.”

Kansas and Florida are the only two states that currently prevent sex changes on state-issued ID cards.

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Watson allowed transgender Kansas residents to intervene in Kobach’s lawsuit, and the American Civil Liberties Union argued that the no-changes policy violated rights protected by the Kansas Constitution.

During the two days of hearings in January, Kobach argued for the injunction against representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Kansas Department of Revenue. Intervenors testified about their own experiences with transphobia, including forced outings when they had to show people their driver’s licenses.

The Kansas Supreme Court declared in 2019 that the state constitution grants a right to bodily autonomy, though the decision dealt with abortion rights, not LGBTQ+ rights.

In a statement to Fox News Digital, ACLU’s LGBTQ+ legal fellow D.C. Hiegert said they were “disappointed” about Monday’s ruling and the decision would lead to transgender “people experiencing harassment, denial of services, or worse.”

“We remain unconvinced that the imaginary injury to the state could ever outweigh the enormous harm our clients and other transgender Kansans have and will continue to experience by being forced to carry,” the statement read.

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