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Trans Kansans Can Intervene in Lawsuit Over Driver's Licenses, Judge Rules

Trans Kansans Can Intervene in Lawsuit Over Driver's Licenses, Judge Rules

Driver's license and ACLU Kansas logo

They can make their voices heard as the state's Republican attorney general seeks to deny them the right to change the gender marker on their licenses.

Transgender Kansans will have a chance to make their voices heard in a lawsuit over gender markers on driver’s licenses.

Shawnee County Judge Teresa Watson Friday granted a motion by five trans Kansans to intervene in the case, in which Republican Attorney General Kris Kobach is seeking to deny gender changes on the licenses. In July, Kobach sued the Kansas Department of Revenue’s Division of Vehicles. He asserts that it violates a new state law to let Kansans list anything other than the gender they were assigned at birth on their driver’s licenses.

That law, Senate Bill 180, defines gender as binary and fixed at birth. Legislators overrode Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto to pass it, and it took effect July 1; Kobach had lost the 2018 governor’s race to Kelly. Watson has granted a temporary restraining order blocking gender changes to licenses while the case proceeds.

The intervenors are Adam Kellogg, Kathryn Redman, Juliana Ophelia Gonzales-Wahl, and two who remain anonymous. They are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, the national ACLU, and the law firm of Stinson LLP. Watson heard arguments from both sides in the case Wednesday, and two days later she ruled that the trans Kansans can intervene.

“We are gratified that the court has seen that our clients have a vested interest in the outcome of this case, and should be entitled to make their arguments,” said a statement from Sharon Brett, legal director at the ACLU of Kansas. “For our clients and the entire community they represent, this case is about the privacy, dignity, and autonomy that comes from having accurate gender markers on their license, and about their right to be safe from the harassment they would face if forced to present inaccurate IDs that would essentially out them against their will in daily life. This case is about trans Kansans’ well-being and their ability to live freely and without government-sanctioned persecution — we look forward to further demonstrating that before the court.”

“We’re thankful the court has recognized that these arguments can and should be considered by the Court, and that it would be improper to move forward with this matter without hearing from the transgender Kansans at its center,” added Rose Saxe, deputy director of the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project. “The policy change being pursued by the attorney general is a degrading and discriminatory affront to transgender Kansans’ liberty and their safety, and the voices of transgender Kansans in defense of their personhood shall not and will not be silenced.”

“The notion that they’re being silenced is ridiculous thinking. We are happy to answer their constitutional claims,” Kobach countered Wednesday, according to the Kansas Reflector.

With the granting of intervention, “the primary legal question remains the same: Does a state agency have to follow the plain meaning of a law passed by our duly elected legislators?” he added Friday, the Reflector reports. “With respect to the constitutional challenge raised by the ACLU, we look forward to rebutting their novel theories in court.”

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