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A state judge ordered Kansas to stop allowing trans-identifying individuals to change their sex on their driver’s licenses Monday.
District Judge Teresa Watson issued a restraining order against Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s administration to stop allowing trans-identifying drivers to change their sex on their licenses after Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach sued Kelly’s administration over the practice.
Watson’s restraining order states that allowing sex changes on licenses would cause “immediate and irreparable injury,” noting that “driver’s licenses are issued for a period of six years and are difficult to take back or out of circulation once issued.”
“Licenses are used by law enforcement to identify criminal suspects, crime victims, wanted persons, missing persons and others,” Watson continued. “Compliance with state legal requirements for identifying license holders is a public safety concern.”
The order comes three days after Kobach, a Republican, sued two officials in the Kelly administration, arguing that changing driver’s licenses for those who identify with the opposite sex is unlawful.
Kobach argued that the practice is unlawful under a state law passed this year — called the Women’s Bill of Rights — that defines men and women on the basis of their “biological reproductive system.”
Kelly vetoed the bill, saying it “stripp[ed] away rights” and would “hurt our ability to continue … landing new business deals.” The Republican-controlled legislature overrode her veto, with the law going into effect July 1.
Last month, Kobach released a legal opinion that the Women’s Bill of Rights required that driver’s licenses be issued based on the driver’s biological sex. The opinion stated that the Kansas Department of Revenue should update licenses that don’t reflect the driver’s biological sex.
In his opinion, Kobach also argued the law applies to birth certificates and prisons, but his lawsuit only addresses driver’s licenses.
Despite the law’s passage and Kobach’s legal opinion, Kelly issued a directive last month that the state’s motor vehicles division would continue to allow trans-identifiers to change their sex listing on their licenses.
Kobach called Kelly’s directive “nonsense.”
“The Governor doesn’t get to veto a bill and then ignore the Legislature’s override,” he wrote shortly before filing the suit. “She is violating her oath of office to uphold Kansas law. We will see her in court.”
Watson did not rule on whether the Kelly administration broke state law by continuing to change licenses. Kansas has allowed the practice for four years, and nearly 400 people have changed their sex on their licenses. The restraining order lasts two weeks and can be extended by the judge.