Transgender Law Center, along with co-counsel Irigonegaray and Associates and Caldwell Leslie & Proctor, PC, is representing Stephanie Mott in a lawsuit challenging the state of Kansas’s policy of refusing to update the gender markers on the birth certificates of transgender people.
“One of the first things I ever knew about myself is that I’m a girl, but to this day, the state of Kansas refuses to update my birth certificate to reflect who I truly am,” said Stephanie, a 58-year-old woman and social work student at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. “It’s so important for me that my birth certificate reflect my authentic self. Having accurate identity documents is not only a matter of human dignity but also an issue of safety. I shouldn’t have to out myself as transgender every time I apply for a job or when I register to vote.”
Kansas long had a regulation in place that permitted transgender people to change the gender marker on birth certificates. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment, which oversees birth certificates in the state, regularly updated birth certificates for transgender Kansans for years until 2012, shortly after Governor Sam Brownback took office. At that point, without repealing or officially altering the regulation, the Department suddenly adopted an internal policy of refusing to follow the regulation and denying all birth certificate amendment requests from transgender people.
“Everyone needs access to identity documents that reflect who we really are,” said Ilona Turner, Legal Director of Transgender Law Center. “The state’s brand-new policy of refusing to allow transgender people to update the gender marker on their birth certificates is patently unlawful and unconstitutional. This policy is an extreme outlier – every state except Kansas, Idaho, and Tennessee will give transgender people new birth certificates that correctly state their gender. Even Kansas itself allows transgender people to update the gender marker on their driver’s licenses, and allows non-transgender people to update birth certificates to correct inaccuracies. This policy serves no purpose other than to discriminate.”
Stephanie submitted a request for an amended birth certificate to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment on December 14, 2015. KDHE denied that request in a letter dated January 22, 2016. Transgender Law Center and co-counsel have now filed a petition in state court to challenge that denial. The petition argues that the Department’s policy violates Kansas state law by failing to comply with a valid regulation. It also argues that denying transgender people amended birth certificates violates the constitutional right to equal protection and right to privacy—the ability to decide when and to whom to disclose one’s transgender status.
“It took me 48 years of struggle to embrace my authentic self and start living as the woman I’ve always known I am,” added Stephanie. “I just want my government to respect who I am and stop trying to make me live as someone I’m not.”
Attorneys on the case include Ilona Turner and Sasha Buchert of Transgender Law Center; Kelly Perigoe and Christopher Caldwell of Caldwell Leslie & Proctor, PC; and Pedro Irigonegaray and Elizabeth Herbert of Irigonegaray and Associates.
“Stephanie Mott has been my friend for many years,” said Pedro Irigonegaray of Irigonegaray and Associates. “She is a remarkable lady; an advocate for equality for all. Elizabeth and I are honored to be representing Stephanie together with a distinguished and dedicated group of lawyers and organizations. We will not remain indifferent. To not oppose bigotry endorses it.”
Kelly Perigoe of Caldwell Leslie & Proctor, PC added: “The law is clear; Stephanie is entitled to a birth certificate that reflects her authentic self. We have been honored to be a part of this brilliant legal team and stand with Stephanie and all transgender individuals fighting to be recognized as their true selves.”
Transgender Law Center changes law, policy, and attitudes so that all people can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or expression. transgenderlawcenter.org