Politics & Government

Proposal could block transgender Kansans from updating birth certificates

“My hope is to get my birth certificate corrected. I was born female. My birth certificate does not reflect accurately that I was born female and that I am female. And the state’s duty is to correct my birth certificate to reflect who I am,” said Stephanie Mott, a transgender activist and a graduate student in social work at Washburn University.
“My hope is to get my birth certificate corrected. I was born female. My birth certificate does not reflect accurately that I was born female and that I am female. And the state’s duty is to correct my birth certificate to reflect who I am,” said Stephanie Mott, a transgender activist and a graduate student in social work at Washburn University. The Wichita Eagle

Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration is moving forward with a policy change that would make it more difficult for transgender people to change the gender on their birth certificates.

Under current regulations, a person can change the gender on his or her birth certificate by providing a “medical certificate substantiating that a physiological or anatomical change occurred” or by signing an affidavit saying that the gender was incorrectly recorded.

The Brownback administration has proposed changing the regulations so that the gender on a person’s birth certificate can be changed only if the person signs an affidavit saying the gender was incorrectly recorded on the original certificate and provides medical records substantiating that claim.

This change, developed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, appears to block transgender people from updating their birth certificates after transitioning.

“They’re trying to change the rules in the middle of the game,” said Tom Witt, the executive director of Equality Kansas, an LGBT rights group.

“This has been standing in Kansas for a very long time that transgender people are able to get their birth certificates corrected,” Witt said. “Now they’re changing the rules because there are transgender people who are still trying to get their birth certificates corrected … and Brownback’s people don’t want that to happen.”

KDHE’s executive summary explaining the regulatory change says it is intended to “remove allowing corrections that are not considered minor and exceed the authority of the authorizing statute.”

Cassie Sparks, a spokeswoman for KDHE, contended in an e-mail that current language of the regulations “is not in compliance with Kansas law.”

“With these changes, the regulation will be brought into compliance,” she said.

The proposed change, which is set for a hearing next month, comes after the state received national attention for a pair of bills that would restrict transgender students’ access to school bathrooms that don’t align with their recorded gender at birth.

It also comes as the state faces a lawsuit from a transgender woman over KDHE’s refusal to update her birth certificate since her transition.

“It’s sadly unfortunate that the state of Kansas is in the business of trying to make it more difficult for people to be who they really are,” said Stephanie Mott, the plaintiff in the case. “I couldn’t begin to understand their motivations.”

The proposed changes were drawn up in January, the same month that KDHE denied Mott’s request to change the gender on her birth certificate in January. Mott filed a lawsuit in Shawnee County in February.

“My hope is to get my birth certificate corrected. I was born female. My birth certificate does not reflect accurately that I was born female and that I am female. And the state’s duty is to correct my birth certificate to reflect who I am,” said Mott, a transgender activist and a graduate student in social work at Washburn University.

Mott said having a gender and name on her birth certificate that do not match her appearance and identity can make it difficult when she needs to use the document, including when she registers to vote.

“Really, it’s an issue of fairness,” Mott said. “Most people have birth certificates that match who they are and I don’t.”

Since the policy change is being made under KDHE’s regulatory authority, no legislation is needed to allow the agency to move forward with the change. A public hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. May 12 in the Curtis State Office Building in Topeka.

Even in cases where the agency would allow change to the birth certificate, under the new regulations KDHE’s Bureau of Vital Statistics would be required to keep a copy of the original certificate on file unchanged and mark the new certificate as “amended.”

The secretary of state’s office would also have the power to determine the sufficiency of the affidavits and other evidence provided before a requested change to a birth certificate could be approved.

Bryan Lowry: 785-296-3006, @BryanLowry3

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