Judge temporarily blocks Kansas from allowing gender changes to driver’s licenses
Gov. Laura Kelly and Attorney General Kris Kobach are battling over the alteration of gender markers on key documents.
A Shawnee County District Court judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday to prevent Kansans from amending gender declarations on driver’s licenses pending further consideration of a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Kris Kobach.
Kobach filed suit Friday to compel the Kansas Department of Revenue under Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly to stop permitting transgender Kansans to change gender markers on state licenses to drive. The attorney general contends the practice violated Senate Bill 180, otherwise known as the Women’s Bill of Rights, that he argued mandated residents be identified on driver’s licenses based on sex assigned at birth.
Judge Teresa Watson, appointed in 2014 to the Shawnee County District Court bench by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, signed the temporary restraining order viable for two weeks. The judge could allow it to expire or extend it by July 24.
Her directive required the Kelly administration to “immediately cease and desist from processing any requests by driver’s licensees or driver’s license applicants to change or display their sex in a manner that does not reflect their biological sex.”
In addition, her order mandated state agencies “take all actions necessary to ensure that any newly issued or reissued driver’s licenses reflect the licensee’s biological sex” as defined by a controversial state law approved by the Republican-led 2023 Legislature despite a veto by Kelly.
Watson’s order incorporated Kobach’s argument driver’s licenses were issued for a period of six years and were difficult to take out of circulation once issued. She noted licenses were used by law enforcement to identify criminal suspects, crime victims, wanted persons, missing persons and other people.
“Compliance with stated legal requirements for identifying license holders is a public safety concern,” the judge’s order said. “Allowing (state) respondents to issue non-compliant driver’s licenses pending a court hearing is an immediate and irreparable injury that supports the grant of a temporary restraining order on the terms requested by the attorney general.”
In response to the attorney general’s lawsuit, the governor’s office said Kelly faithfully executed laws of the state and vowed agencies within the executive branch would do likewise.
Kelly maintained the statute that took effect July 1 didn’t require the state Department of Revenue to alter issuance of revised driver’s licenses to transgendered individuals.
Named defendants in the suit filed by the Republican attorney general were Mark Burghart, secretary of the Department of Revenue, and David Harper, who is the agency’s director of vehicles.
This state court action didn’t address the Kelly administration’s policy of allowing transgender people to secure new birth certificates from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Kobach has petitioned the U.S. District Court to modify a consent decree to end that practice.
This story was originally published by the Kansas Reflector.