Transgender Advocates Criticize Kansas Proposal On Birth Certificates

May 12, 2016

Update from the AP:

The Obama administration is telling public schools that they must allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.

The directive is in formal guidance being sent to school districts Friday by the departments of Education and Justice.

The letter does not impose any new legal requirements, but federal officials say the guidance is meant to clarify school districts’ obligations to provide students with nondiscriminatory environments.

It comes amid a legal fight between the Justice Department and North Carolina over that state's law on bathroom use by transgender people. The state and the federal government sued each other on Monday.

Original Story:

Proposed changes to a Kansas law about changing gender on birth certificates has transgender advocates quite upset.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment wants to change the law to "comply with current state law." As it stands now, a transgender Kansan may update their birth certificate if they provide a medical document stating that there is a physiological or anatomical change.

If the proposed changes are adopted a transgender person could only change their birth certificate if the person or their parents can document that the gender was recorded improperly to begin with. KDHE cites a 2002 state Supreme Court decision in which a transgender spouse was denied estate rights because the state did not recognize same sex marriages.

Critics of the proposed rule change criticized the policy at a public hearing today.

Stephanie Mott, who is transgender, says government documents that don’t match a transgender person’s identity make it more likely they’ll face discrimination and harassment. She says this policy would further stigmatize transgender Kansans.

“All of us live on the edge of society in a place where suicide attempts are common. These regulations are going to push us much further towards that edge and some people are going to fall off,” Mott says.

The hearing comes amidst discussion over a new North Carolina law which requires people to use the bathrooms corresponding to their recorded genders at birth.

From the AP:

Kansas will "absolutely" face a lawsuit if its health department moves ahead with planned regulatory changes that would make it far more difficult for transgender residents to alter their original birth certificates, a lawyer-advocate said Thursday.

Attorney Pedro Irigonegaray was one of three transgender rights advocates who called on the state Department of Health and Environment to abandon its proposed changes during a public hearing. If the department does not revise the proposed changes, they could take effect within six weeks.

The changes would eliminate an existing rule that allows transgender people to update the gender listed on their birth records by providing "a medical certificate" documenting "a physiological or anatomical change." The rules would allow a change only if a person or his or her parents could document that the gender was incorrectly recorded at the time of birth.

The department contends the existing regulation conflicts with state law. But Micah Kubic, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, said the state would be among only a handful with such a strict policy and transgender men and women couldn't change their birth certificates "short of time travel."

Stephanie Mott, a transgender Topeka woman and activist, predicted that the regulatory changes will lead more transgender youth to attempt suicide because the state will be rejecting their identities and preventing them from having authentic lives. Mott filed a state-court lawsuit against the department in February because it hasn't allowed her to change her birth certificate.

"Children will die," Mott told the department official presiding at the hearing. "These regulations will be written in their blood."

Irigonegaray is representing Mott in her lawsuit and said after the hearing, "If this is passed, there will be litigation, challenging its constitutionality."

The department's hearing on the rule comes amid federal lawsuits over a new North Carolina law requiring transgender people to use public bathrooms, showers and changing rooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificate. The U.S. Justice Department and the state's governor sued each other earlier this week.

The Kansas health department's assessment is that the existing regulation on changing birth certificates conflicts with state law and stems a 2002 decision by the state Supreme Court.

The court was ruling on the legality of a transgender woman's 1998 marriage to a man in Leavenworth County, in a dispute over the man's estate after his death. Kansas at the time banned same-sex marriage, and the court said the transgender woman's marriage wasn't legal because she'd been born male.

"It's out of compliance with Kansas law, and these changes will bring the regulations into compliance," said department spokeswoman Cassie Sparks.

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Aileen LeBlanc is news director at KMUW. Follow her on Twitter @Aileen_LeBlanc.

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