Kansas lawmakers are attempting to prevent transgender individuals from modifying their birth certificates to reflect their gender identity. Rather, state regulations will mandate that birth certificates must reflect the gender one was born with, which advocates call a stark rejection of gender fluidity.
Officials from the Kansas state health department want to discard an existing provision that allows individuals to amend their birth certificates. The agency plans to begin implementing the new regulations within the next six weeks. Under the new rules, one could modify their gender only if it had been misrecorded at birth.
Kansas state Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Republican, says that a birth certificate is "a record for future generations," which should not be amended. She argues that the document reflects "science" rather than "political purposes." "Men and women are biologically different," she concluded. "I don't think we should become detached from reality."
According to Cody Gohl of NewNowNext, the whole controversy began when a trans woman from Topeka filed a lawsuit against the Kansas health department for not allowing her to change her gender on her birth certificate. She now fears that the new regulations will send more transgender people into hiding and increase the suicide among transgender youth, who feel they are being rejected by society.
The Kansas state government, led by Republican Governor Sam Brownback, has developed a national reputation of being a bulwark against left-leaning causes, such as marriage equality, access to birth control, marijuana legalization, immigrant rights, and a women's right to choose.
Unsurprisingly, the new regulations have spurred intense backlash from activist groups and civil rights organizations. "It really stands against where most of the country is on updating identity documents to accurately reflect who people are," says Ari Christian, Kansas's state policy counsel for the National Center for Transgender Equality.
As reported by Tim Carpenter of the Topeka Capital-Journal, Kansas now stands in opposition to a federal warning to public schools nationwide calling for transgender students' access to restrooms and other sex-segregated facilities. Like North Carolina, which recently passed a law requiring individuals to use facilities that correspond with their gender at birth, Kansas will likely face federal consequences.
The governor has already taken to Twitter to accuse the Obama administration of meddling in policies that should be left to the states. "The President has acted without Congress and without consulting the States. This attempted top-down reinterpretation of federal law rejects both logic and prudence, and would result in numerous problems and challenges for our public schools." The online exchange has been documented by the website KSN, which reports on happenings and breaking stories in Kansas.
The issue of transgender rights, especially those concerning transgender students, has been catapulted to the forefront of the national debate. Lawmakers in Texas and North Carolina rallied to Kansas's defense, while, earlier this year, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard vetoed a bill that would have discriminated against transgender individuals after speaking with transgender students about their concerns with such legislation and the challenges they face.