Judge Bans State From Allowing Gender Change On Driver’s Licenses

Kansas is no longer allowed to give people who identify as trans the ability to change the gender on their own driver’s license.

On Monday, state District Judge Teresa Watson made a ruling that essentially puts a restraining order on Governor Laura Kelly, a Democrat, and her administration. That order will prevent the governor’s office from allowing people who identify as trans from changing their gender on their driver’s licenses.

The case came about when Kris Kobah, the state’s attorney general, sued the Kelly administration to prevent the policy from being carried out.

The restraining order that Watson issued says that allowing people to change their sex on driver’s licenses would cause “immediate and irreparable injury.” She noted that “driver’s licenses are issued for a period of six years and are difficult to take back or out of circulation once issued.”

The ruling continued:

“Licenses are used by law enforcement to identify criminal suspects, crime victims, wanted persons, missing persons and others. Compliance with state legal requirements for identifying license holders is a public safety concern.”

The Republican Kobach sued two Kelly administration officials – both Democrats – saying that the policy is unlawful. 

He said the law that dictates this is the Women’s Bill of Rights, which was passed just this year. That law defines both women and men based on their “biological reproductive system.

The law went into effect on July 1 of this year, after the GOP-led state Legislature overrode a veto that Kelly issued. When she vetoed the bill, Kelly said it “stripp[ed] away rights” and would “hurt our ability to continue … landing new business deals.”

In June, Kobach gave a legal opinion of his own, saying the Women’s Bill of Rights actually requires the state to issue all driver’s licenses based on the biological sex of the driver – and not the sex with which they identify. He further stated that the state Department of Revenue should ultimately update all driver’s licenses that aren’t in compliance with that requirement.

While Kobach’s lawsuit only addressed how the state approaches gender identification on driver’s licenses, his legal opinion also said the Women’s Bill of Rights applied to both prisons and birth certificates.

Kelly didn’t seem to care about Kobach’s legal opinion, though, as she issued a directive of her own to Kansas’ motor vehicle division, saying they had to allow people who identified as trans to change the change on their driver’s licenses.

Kobach said that directive was pure “nonsense.”

Just before he officially filed his lawsuit, Kobach wrote:

“The Governor doesn’t get to veto a bill and then ignore the Legislature’s override. She is violating her oath of office to uphold Kansas law. We will see her in court.”

In the case, Watson’s ruling didn’t address whether anyone in the Kelly administration actually broke Kansas state law by continuing to allow people to change the gender on their own driver’s licenses.

That practice has been in place for almost four years, with almost 400 people opting to change the gender on their licenses.

While the restraining order only lasts for two weeks – to allow the actual lawsuit to proceed – the judge can decide to extend it.