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A Kansas state agency is fighting a judge's ban on changing trans people's licenses


TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas agency that issues driver's licenses is fighting a state-court judge's order that bans the agency from changing the sex listing on transgender people's licenses.

The Kansas Department of Revenue tried in court Wednesday to persuade District Judge Teresa Watson to lift her ban on changing licenses to reflect trans people's gender identities. The order is set to expire July 24, although the judge can extend it. The department asked Watson to revoke it, and she said she would rule on that request later in the day.

The state’s Republican attorney general, Kris Kobach, has sued the head of the Department of Revenue and its motor vehicle division. Kobach argues that a new anti-transgender rights law, which took effect July 1, prevents trans people from changing their driver’s licenses. But the department kept making the changes — until Monday's order — in line with an announcement from Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

The department contends that the new law conflicts with an older one dealing specifically with driver's licenses.

Department attorney Ted Smith told Watson that the agency is bound by the older law on driver's licenses and not “the attorney general's legal theories.” The judge had a Zoom hearing Wednesday from Shawnee County, home to the state capital of Topeka.

Republican legislators enacted the new Kansas law over Kelly's veto. It defines male and female based on a person's sex assigned at birth for “any” state law or regulation, although it does not specifically mention driver's licenses. It prevents legal recognition of transgender people's gender identities.

“The violation of the statute itself is an injury to the state,” Kobach said during the hearing.

Kansas is one of only a few states that don’t allow transgender people to change the sex listed on their driver’s license. Montana and Tennessee also bar changes for transgender people, but their laws deal specifically with driver’s licenses.


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