Kansas is one of just three states that bar trans people from changing the gender marker on their birth certificates, and Lambda Legal is taking aim at that ban.
On Monday, the group hit the state with a federal lawsuit on behalf of four transgender Kansans who want their birth certificates updated.
“The birth certificate policy at issue in this case is archaic and discriminatory,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, senior attorney at Lambda Legal, in a statement. “By denying people the ability to correct their gender marker on their birth certificates, Kansas is forcing transgender people in effect to lie about who they are and to navigate life with inaccurate identity documents.”
Among the plaintiffs is Jessica Hicklin, a Missouri inmate who made history earlier this year by successfully challenging that state’s policy of denying trans people affirming medical care they weren’t receiving prior to arrest. Hicklin was born in Kansas, and the state will not issue her a birth certificate recognizing her as female.
Other plaintiffs include LGBTQ youth and anti-violence activist Nyla Foster as well as transgender and disability advocate Luc Bensimon. A fourth trans male plaintiff who wishes to remain anonymous has been identified only by the initials C.K. He lives in Tulsa, Okla., where he worries the birth certificate places him at risk of violence from being outed.
The suit further argues that the current policy forces trans people to out themselves in sensitive situations, like starting a new job.
Plaintiff Luc Bensimon, who has a mild form of cerebral palsy, said the policy complicates every aspect of his life.
“Having to present a birth certificate that incorrectly identifies me as female makes it easier for people to discriminate against me based on my gender identity, on top of the discrimination I already confront based on my disability,” he said in a statement.
The suit says the state violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. It also points out that it’s out of sync with federal procedures on updating passports and in-state protocol for issuing driver’s licenses.
In an email to INTO, Kansas Department of Health and Environment Deputy Secretary of Public Affairs Theresa Freed said the matter has already played out in a state court. In 2016, a Topeka woman unsuccessfully sued to change her birth certificate. In that case, a Shawnee County District Court judge ruled that it was beyond the Department’s purview to amend birth certificates.
“The Kansas Department of Health and Environment does not have the authority to change an individual’s birth certificate, with the exception of minor corrections or by court order,” Freed said. “Gender identity would not be considered a minor correction.”
Image via Lambda Legal