A Civil Rights Battlefront: The ACLU Steps Up in Kansas Against Anti-Transgender Legislation

Welcome to Kansas, where the fight for transgender rights is intensifying by the day. The ACLU of Kansas, a beacon of hope for civil rights advocates, has stepped up to represent five transgender Kansans eager to obtain or retain driver’s licenses that reflect their true gender identity. This action comes amidst a legal face-off between Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach and the state’s Department of Revenue.

The ACLU’s move is an essential response to a blatant affront to civil liberties. “Mr. Kobach’s actions demonstrate a flagrant attempt to do an end-run around our state constitution,” states Sharon Brett, the ACLU of Kansas’ legal director.

What’s at the center of all this? The newly implemented SB 180, is an antagonistic piece of legislation that curtails transgender rights by narrowing the definition of sex. Despite the secured right for gender markers to be changed on birth certificates in 2018, Kobach is attempting to sidestep this by urging the federal court to nullify the previously agreed consent in this case due to the passing of SB 180. His recommended measures? Forcefully reverting driver’s licenses and birth certificates of some Kansans back to the genders they were assigned at birth.

“Today’s action represents yet another unnecessary and cruel move to target the transgender community with animus and discrimination for political gain,” responds Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Lambda Legal Counsel and Health Care Strategist. And Kansas isn’t alone. At least five U.S. states currently forbid all changes to gender markers on birth certificates, and nine states severely limit changes on driver’s licenses. Others, like Montana, have passed legislation redefining sex to further restrict transgender rights.

Gov. Laura Kelly has pointed out the detrimental implications of these anti-trans laws. Kelly insists these laws are part of a calculated scheme to strip transgender people of their rights at a state level across the country. She has vetoed numerous anti-trans laws, including the notorious SB 180, though her veto was later overridden by the legislature.

In defiance of Kobach’s interpretation of SB180, Kelly pledged to maintain existing policies concerning gender markers on birth certificates and driver’s licenses. This move triggered a lawsuit filed by Kobach, followed by a temporary restraining order enacted by District Judge Teresa Watson that currently halts the issuing of updated licenses.

At the heart of the ACLU’s intervention is the argument that the five transgender Kansans they represent will face irreparable harm if they are barred from changing their gender marker on their licenses. If successful, this move will allow the ACLU to contest Kobach’s anti-trans agenda in court.

So, here we are. As Sharon Brett of the ACLU puts it, “Our clients deserve to live their lives free of harassment, discrimination, and violence — all consequences that Mr. Kobach’s erroneous legal interpretations are designed to encourage.” It’s 2023, and the fight for transgender rights is in full swing in the heartland. We stand with the ACLU and Gov. Kelly in fighting against these legislative measures that seek to undermine human dignity and equality.