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Kansas Judge Will Let A.C.L.U. Intervene in Transgender Driver’s License Lawsuit

— August 20, 2023

A Kansas county judge has granted the American Civil Liberties Union’s request to intervene in state Attorney General Kris Kobach’s lawsuit, which would require driver’s licenses to list an individual’s sex assigned at birth instead of their gender identity.

As has reported before, the A.C.L.U. of Kansas filed its motion to intervene early last month.

While the state had pressured Shawnee County District Judge Theresa Watson to dismiss the organization’s request, Watson ruled on Friday that—because the state’s decision would impact transgender petitioner’s personal interests—they are entitled to voice their concerns.

“We are gratified that the court has seen that our clients have a vested interest in the outcome of this case and should be entitled to make their arguments,” said Sharon Brett, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas. “This case is about trans Kansans’ well-being and their ability to live freely and without government-sanctioned persecution.”

Kobach had earlier asked that the court to compel the Kansas Department of Revenue’s Division of Vehicles to comply with provisions of state Senate Bill 180, which states that driver’s licenses should reflect the applicant’s sex at birth.

Watson, notes The Kansas Reflector, had issued a restraining order to stop all changes to existing gender marks until the lawsuit has been resolved.

LGBTQ flag. Image via Quote Catalog, Flickr, CC BY 2.0, no changes.

On Wednesday, the court held a hearing to determine whether the A.C.L.U. could participate in litigation.

The hearing was attended by Brett, Department of Revenue attorneys, and a solicitor for Kobach’s office.

“The notion that they’re being silenced is ridiculous thinking. We are happy to answer their constitutional claims,” Kobach said during the Wednesday hearing. “It’s just that procedurally, those should follow the determination of what the statute means. If the court were to agree with our interpretation of the statute, then at that point our posture shifts slightly and we are defending the Department of Revenue against the constitutional claims made by the interveners.”

Kobach’s office has continued to argue that the A.C.L.U.’s participation is unnecessary, as the lawsuit’s scope is restricted to the enforcement of state-sanctioned powers.

“The primary legal question remains the same: does a state agency have to follow the plain meaning of a law passed by our duly-elected legislators?” Kobach said on Friday. “With respect to the constitutional challenge raised by the A.C.L.U., we look forward to rebutting their novel theories in court.”

Brett, meanwhile, said that her organization is “gratified” by the court’s ruling.

“For our clients and the entire community they represent, this case is about the privacy, dignity, and autonomy that comes from having accurate gender markers on their license, and about their right to be safe from the harassment they would face if forced to present inaccurate IDs that would essentially out them against their will in daily life,” Brett said.


Judge allows transgender Kansans to intervene in Kobach’s driver’s license lawsuit

Kansas judge allows ACLU to intervene in lawsuit over gender markers on driver’s licenses

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