Victory! Kansas Agrees to Issue Accurate Birth Certificates to Transgender People

Browse By

Blog Search

June 24, 2019
Comments

Transgender people born in Kansas will now be able to correct the gender marker on their birth certificates under a consent judgment between Lambda Legal and state officials issued Friday evening by a federal court.

“I’m glad to see the state of Kansas has agreed to recognize us for who we are. It should have not taken a lawsuit to reach that conclusion. This judgment makes me feel safer and like my state finally recognizes me and respects me as a woman,” said Nyla Foster, 30, a plaintiff on the case.  “I am proud that transgender Kansans like me will no longer be forced into dangerous situations because their identity documents do not match who they are.”

“This is a tremendous victory for all transgender people born in Kansas. By acknowledging that its policy prohibiting transgender Kansans from correcting the sex designation on their birth certificates was discriminatory and unconstitutional, the State of Kansas has done the right thing and has taken a huge step forward,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Senior Attorney at Lambda Legal. “This court-issued judgment builds not only on our recent court victories striking down similar policies prohibiting transgender people born in Idaho and Puerto Rico from having accurate birth certificates, but also upon years of advocacy by transgender Kansans. With this judgment Kansas will now finally be in line with the rest of the country, where already 47 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico have acknowledged the importance of individuals having access to essential identity documents that accurately reflect who they are.” 

“After courts in Idaho and Puerto Rico found these categorical exclusions violate equal protection under the law and the right to privacy, Kansas’s position was untenable. 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.

Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit Foster v. Andersen in October 2018 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas on behalf of four transgender individuals born in Kansas – Nyla Foster, Luc Bensimon, Jessica Hicklin and a client identified by his initials, C.K. The lawsuit also has an organizational plaintiff, the Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project, Inc. (K-STEP), which was founded by transgender Kansas advocate Stephanie Mott, who spearheaded the group until her death in March 2019. 

Under the consent judgment entered by the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, the court orders the Secretary for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and other Kansas government officials to provide accurate birth certificates that reflect their true sex, consistent with their gender identity, and agrees that the policy prohibiting gender marker corrections to birth certificates violated the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

“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. It is a huge relief to finally have an accurate birth certificate that is a true reflection of who I am,” said another plaintiff Luc Bensimon, a 46-year-old resident of Topeka, Kansas.

The court-issued judgment sets forth the process by which people born in Kansas may correct the sex designation on their birth certificates. Specifically, a transgender person born in Kansas may correct the gender marker on their birth certificate by submitting a sworn statement, accompanied by 1) a passport; 2) a driver’s license, or 3) certification issued by a healthcare professional – that confirms the person’s gender identity.

“We at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner are pleased with this result and honored to have co-counseled this case with Lambda Legal on behalf of these brave clients to ensure that transgender Kansans receive equal treatment under the law and have access to government documents that accurately reflect their true sex, consistent with their gender identity,” said Jim Lawrence, a partner at the law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP.

According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, almost one-third of transgender individuals who showed an identity document with a name or gender marker that conflicted with their perceived gender were harassed, denied benefits or services, discriminated against, or assaulted. Transgender individuals also are disproportionately targeted for hate crimes.

In addition to its victory in Foster v. Andersen, Lambda Legal also successfully challenged similar categorical bans in Idaho in F.V. v. Barron and Puerto Rico in Arroyo v. Rossello, and has sued the State of Ohio in Ray v. Himes and State of Tennessee in Gore v. Lee over their bans.

Handling the case on behalf of Lambda Legal are Senior Attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan and Staff Attorney Kara Ingelhart. They are joined by pro-bono co-counsel Jim Lawrence, Katherine Keating, and Sarah Holdmeyer of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP.