The Kansas Department of Health and Environment's agreement resolving a federal lawsuit will allow transgender Kansans to immediately apply to amend information on birth certificates to reflect the sex with which they associate, Gov. Laura Kelly said Monday.
The plaintiffs in the suit filed in October 2018 argued KDHE violated the equal protection and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution by denying residents of the state an opportunity to secure an accurate birth certificate. The case was filed in response to KDHE actions taken under Gov. Sam Brownback and continued by Gov. Jeff Colyer until resolved under Kelly.
Kelly, a Democrat, said the agreement entered by KDHE on Friday was a reflection of her administration's desire to end discrimination against transgender people. The governor's office said KDHE was prepared to begin processing changes without delay.
"It was time for Kansas to move past its outdated and discriminatory anti-transgender policy," Kelly said. "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."
In 2012, the Brownback administration shut down opportunities for transgender people to modify birth certificates. Such changes were routinely handled by KDHE for years, said Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas.
Three states -- Kansas, Tennessee and Ohio -- have blocked modification of birth certificates to reflect a person’s sex consistent with their gender identity.
"We look forward to the last two states with these archaic policies, Ohio and Tennessee, to follow suit," said Kara Ingelhart, staff attorney at Lambda Legal, a national civil rights organization.
Stephanie Mott, who died in March, sued KDHE so she could change the gender on her birth certificate to female. While Mott eventually dropped her lawsuit, the Kansas Statewide Transgender Equality Project and several individuals were plaintiffs in the federal case brought by Lambda Legal on behalf of transgender Kansans seeking to change birth certificates.
"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," said plaintiff Luc Bensimon, a 46-year-old resident of Topeka. "It is a huge relief to finally have an accurate birth certificate that is a true reflection of who I am."
Under the consent judgment entered by the U.S. District Court, the court ordered the KDHE secretary and other Kansas government officials to provide accurate birth certificates that reflect a person's true sex, consistent with their gender identity.
The office of vital statistics at KDHE will begin allowing a transgender person born in Kansas to obtain a certified copy of his or her amended birth certificate reflecting a change in sex designation.
In order to request a certificate in Kansas, people would need to submit a sworn statement requesting the change and accompanied by a passport or driver's license reflecting the person’s true sex or a certification issued by a health professional or mental health professional with whom the person has a doctor-patient relationship.
The certification would document the health professional's opinion of an applicant's true gender identity and that the designation would continue to be the gender of the applicant in the future.
Kansas officials had enabled people to revise gender markers on state identification cards and driver’s licenses, but not birth certificates. The Brownback administration, without developing official rules and regulations, stopped allowing amendment of birth certificates to reflect changing gender in 2012. In response to litigation involving Mott, Brownback officials issued rules in 2016.
In 2015, Brownback rescinded employment protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender state workers that were created in 2007 by then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.
Kelly signed an order in January restoring protection for LGBT state employees and broadened the decree to apply it to companies doing business with the state.