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Kansas Judge Blocks Changes to Gender on Driver’s Licenses

Kansas Judge Blocks Changes to Gender on Driver’s Licenses

Judge Orders Kansas to Stop Changing Genetic Markers on Driver’s Licenses

The state’s Republican AG had sued the Democratic Governor, saying the practice violated new state law.

A Kansas judge has issued a restraining order preventing Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s administration from issuing or changing driver’s licenses that do not reflect a person’s biological sex at birth.

Republican Attorney General Kris Kobach had sued the state’s Division of Vehicles to halt the practice, saying it violated SB 180, a new law that uses biological sex to define gender on official government documents and practices.

On Monday, Shawnee County District Court Judge Teresa Watson agreed and issued an order to cease and desist the practice.

“The Attorney General points out that driver’s licenses are issued for a period of six years and are difficult to take back or out of circulation once issued,” Watson wrote in her decision. “Licenses are used by law enforcement to identify criminal suspects, crime victims, wanted persons, missing persons, and others. Compliance with stated legal requirements for identifying license holders is a public safety concern.”

Watson also found that allowing the practice to continue while the matter was still pending before the court represented “an immediate and irreparable injury that supports the grant of a temporary restraining order” as requested by Kobach.

Trans activist and vice chair and lobbyist for Equality Kansas Taryn Jones took issue with the judge’s order. She told the AP she’s concerned about the mental well-being of trans folk with misgendered licenses.

“How many criminals are you having that are trans?” she asked while acknowledging the concerns over law enforcement.

Kobach filed the lawsuit in state court on Friday, contending practice of issuing driver’s licenses with genetic markers aligned with a person’s gender identity is in violation of the law SB180 known as the Women’s Bill of Rights. The new law defines gender identity by a person’s “biological reproductive system” at birth and was passed over Kelly’s veto.

In his lawsuit, Kobach contended that Kelly could not “pick and choose which laws she will enforce and which laws she will ignore.” Kelly countered saying she was only prioritizing compliance with a 2018 federal lawsuit allowing transgender folks to change their birth certificates over the new state law.

In her order, Watson ordered Kelly’s administration to “immediately cease and desist from processing any requests by driver’s licensees or driver’s license applicants to change or display their sex in a manner that does not reflect their biological sex as defined by SB 180” and to “take all actions necessary to ensure that any newly issued or reissued driver’s licenses reflect the licensee’s biological sex’ is used to define a person’s gender as well.

The restraining order will remain in effect for 14 days, at which time Watson can choose to extend the order or let it expire.

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