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Kansans may not change sex on ​driver's licenses to reflect gender identity — for now

  Kansans who identify as a gender other than their biological sex may no longer change their driver's license to reflect that gender id...

 Kansans who identify as a gender other than their biological sex may no longer change their driver's license to reflect that gender identity — at least for now.

The issue relates back to Senate Bill 180, dubbed the "Women's Bill of Rights." The bill requires individuals to be categorized as either "male" or "female" according to their biological reproductive capacity, with females being those who "produce ova" and males being those who "fertilize the ova of a female." The bill was ostensibly designed to protect sex-segregated spaces, including sports, prisons, domestic violence and rape shelters, and locker rooms and restrooms, as well as some data-collection initiatives required by law. SB 180 also carves out some possible "protections" for those "with a medically verifiable diagnosis of disorder/differences in sex development." 

The Kansas state House and Senate — both overwhelmingly controlled by Republicans — passed the Women's Bill of Rights earlier this year, but Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed it in April. The legislature then overrode Kelly's veto, and the law went into effect on July 1

Despite the law, Kelly ordered various state departments under her control to continue permitting people to alter their birth certificate and/or driver's license to accord with their supposed gender identities. So-called transgender individuals in the state had been able to change their documentation to reflect their gender identity for about four years after a federal lawsuit regarding equal protection was settled in 2019. 

The state's attorney general, Kris Kobach, a Republican, slammed Kelly for seemingly overruling the will of the people's elected representatives. "The Governor doesn't get to veto a bill and then ignore the legislature's override," Kobach said.

Late last week, Kobach sued in state court to prevent trans-identifying individuals in Kansas from changing their sex on their driver's license, though his lawsuit made no mention of the similar issue regarding birth certificates. On Monday, District Judge Teresa Watson appeared to side with Kobach, at least temporarily. She issued a restraining order preventing further driver's license changes regarding sex, at least for the next two weeks. She may later extend the order as well.

Watson suggested that changing sex on a driver's license could jeopardize public safety and the ability of police officers to do their job. "Licenses are used by law enforcement to identify criminal suspects, crime victims, wanted persons, missing persons and others," Watson wrote. "Compliance with state legal requirements for identifying license holders is a public safety concern."

The law itself uses similar language. The "distinctions between the sexes [are] considered substantially related to the important governmental objectives of protecting the health, safety, and privacy of individuals," the bill stated.

However, Taryn Jones, the vice chair of Equality Kansas, seemed to counter those concerns about crime and safety by asking, "How many criminals are you having that are trans?"

Since 2019, at least 400 Kansans have changed the sex listed on their driver's license and 900 have altered their birth certificate. Some LGBTQ activists have claimed that banning document changes regarding sex could threaten the health and safety of so-called transgender people.

"How many challenges is that going to cost me as I travel, as I move throughout the state?" asked Suzanne Wheeler, described by CNN as a "trans resident." "What happens if I do go into a bathroom and somebody goes, ‘Hey, wait, this tall woman has a baritone voice, and I think she’s trans,’ and I get the police called on me?

"My biggest concern is SB 180 addresses a nonissue and puts an already vulnerable population at risk," Wheeler added.

CNN reached out to Kelly, Kobach, and Watson for comment. Kelly and Kobach did not respond, and Watson declined.

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