Lawsuit Claims Birth Certificate Policy in Kansas Violates Transgender Rights

A suit filed on Monday in Kansas asks the court to declare the state’s birth certificate policy unconstitutional.

The lawsuit was filed by Lambda Legal and Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LL on behalf of two transgender women and two transgender men who were all born in the state of Kansas. They allege the state is violating their constitutional rights by refusing to allow them to update the sex on their birth certificates to correspond with their gender identities.

According to the suit, Kansas, Tennessee and Ohio are the only states that don’t allow for changing birth certificates to reflect a transgender person’s gender identity. Currently, Kansas only allows its residents to change their gender on driver’s licenses and state ID cards.

The suit argues that be refusing to allow residents to update their gender on their birth certificates, the state is violating the 14th Amendment’s promise of equal protection and due process by treating transgender individuals differently. It also argues that the state is violating the First Amendment by requiring transgender people to identify with their assigned sex at birth, thus forcing them to have to disclose the fact that they are transgender explain the discrepancy on their birth certificate.

“Let me be clear. A transgender woman is a woman. A transgender man is a man, period,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, senior attorney for Lambda Legal, at a news conference.

Theresa Freed, the deputy secretary of public affairs for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, is arguing that current state law only allows “minor corrections” to 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,” said Freed. “Gender identity would not be considered a minor correction.”

“By denying me a truthful and correct birth certificate, Kansas is forcing me to lie,” said Nyla Foster, one of the plaintiffs in the case to the Kansas City Star. “It is forcing me to carry inconsistent documentation that exposes me to intimidation, prejudice, rejection, humiliation and ultimately violence.”

Luc Bensimon, another plaintiff in the case, said his Kansas birth certificate is the only place he is “not allowed to be male.”

“Short and sweet, I’m here today because I would like to be male all across the board,” Bensimon said.

“Ms. Foster has been required to present her birth certificate during job application processes,” the lawsuit states. “Because her birth certificate inaccurately states that she is male, providing this document has led directly to Ms. Foster being ‘outed’ as transgender, and subsequently treated suspiciously and disrespectfully by prospective employers.”

The lawsuit notes that birth certificates are often used to determine employment eligibility, citizenship, and to obtain other forms of identification such as a driver’s license or passport.

“Put simply, all people need access to a birth certificate that accurately reflects their identity,” the lawsuit also states. “However, transgender people born in Kansas, unlike cisgender people born in Kansas, do not have access to accurate birth certificates.”

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