Kansas judge rules keeping biological sex on IDs does not harm transgender

A Kansas judge ruled in favor of the state’s conservative attorney general on Monday and determined that prohibiting sex changes on state IDs and driver’s licenses does not violate the rights of individuals who identify as transgender.

In a memorandum, District Judge Teresa Watson kept in place an existing ruling she previously made in July 2023 to prohibit the Department of Revenue from allowing transgender individuals to change their biological sex on ID cards.

Republican Attorney General Kris Kobach first sued Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly in 2023 after a law passed by the legislature suspended sex changes on ID cards. Kelly vetoed the bill – SB 180 – sparking the lawsuit. The court then issued a temporary restraining order. 

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Tree Crane, 17, poses after a rally where hundreds gathered in support of transgender youth at the Utah state Capitol, Jan. 24, 2023, in Salt Lake City. (Rick Bowmer/AP Images)

“This decision is a victory for the rule of law and common sense,” Kobach said in a statement. “The Legislature wisely stated that state agencies should record biological sex at birth, and today the court held that the meaning of the law is clear.”

Watson permitted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to represent transgender individuals in the case. They argued the law would violate the state’s constitution, which the Supreme Court ruled in 2019 grants a right to bodily autonomy. At the time, the SCOTUS ruling pertained to abortion access.

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Florida DMV office and transgender flag

A Florida DMV office in Miami and a person holding a transgender flag. Kansas and Florida are the only two states that currently prevent sex changes on state-issued ID cards. (Monique O. Madan/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images/Reuters/Demetrius Freeman)

“Information recorded on a driver’s license does not interfere with transgender persons’ ability to control their own bodies or assert bodily integrity or self-determination,” Watson wrote on Monday. “It does not prevent them from “mak[ing] their own decisions regarding their bodies, their health, their family formation, and their family life.”

Watson wrote in the 31-page memorandum that to apply the SCOTUS ruling to the no-change policy on state-issued IDs would be “an unreasonable stretch.”

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This image from the Kansas Department of Revenue shows a sample driver’s license issued by the state’s Division of Vehicles.

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“It did not say Kansans have a fundamental state constitutional right to control what information is displayed on a state-issued driver’s license,” Watson continued. “And the Intervenors’ testimony at the hearing was that producing a driver’s license indicating a sex different than their expressed gender did not result in physical violence, verbal harassment, loss of employment, loss of benefits, refusal of service, or negative interaction with law enforcement. Rather, Intervenors testified about feeling embarrassed, humiliated, or unsafe if someone gave them a puzzled look, hesitated, or questioned their identity when looking at their driver’s license.”

Kansas and Florida are the only two states that currently prevent sex changes on state-issued ID cards. 

In a statement to Fox News Digital, ACLU’s LGBTQ+ legal fellow D.C. Hiegert said they were “disappointed” about Monday’s ruling and the decision would lead to transgender “people experiencing harassment, denial of services, or worse.”

“We remain unconvinced that the imaginary injury to the state could ever outweigh the enormous harm our clients and other transgender Kansans have and will continue to experience by being forced to carry,” the statement read.

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