Allow gender change on birth certificate

Stephanie Mott, left, a transgender Topeka woman, and Pedro Irigonegaray, her attorney, speak to reporters at the KDHE hearing.
Stephanie Mott, left, a transgender Topeka woman, and Pedro Irigonegaray, her attorney, speak to reporters at the KDHE hearing. AP

Everyday living is challenging enough for transgender individuals, without the Brownback administration seeking to officially deny their gender identity in Kansas and the Obama administration escalating the war with the states over bathroom preference.

Yet the Kansas Department of Health and Environment wants to effectively prohibit gender changes on birth certificates by newly requiring medical documentation that the gender was recorded incorrectly at birth. No proponents of the insurmountable paperwork hurdle spoke at a hearing last week in Topeka, though the administration points to a 2002 Kansas Supreme Court ruling as the reason to act.

But how could that be definitive in the much-changed legal environment of 2016 regarding same-sex marriage and other issues, especially given the pain and hassle the change will mean to those affected now? Only three other states have policies against changing gender listings on birth certificates.

Attorney Pedro Irigonegaray, who represents transgender activist Stephanie Mott, likened the proposal to other Brownback administration moves to marginalize lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Kansans, effectively sanctioning discrimination against them in the name of protecting religious freedom.

“Keep in mind that bigotry wrapped in prayer is still bigotry,” Irigonegaray said.

Meanwhile, though Kansas got through the Legislature’s wrap-up session with no action on the so-called Student Physical Privacy Act, the proposal could get fuel for the coming campaigns and 2017 session from Friday’s directive from the Obama administration.

It said states should allow transgender students to use restrooms that match their gender identity, or risk losing federal education funding. Officials in Texas and North Carolina decried the policy directive, as state Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, called it “outrageous and despicable.”

State officials should not push back at the Obama administration by following through on Pilcher-Cook’s desire to dictate which restrooms and locker rooms can be used by transgender students at public K-12 schools and state universities. Kansas’ proposed bill includes an offensive provision allowing an “aggrieved student” who sues to collect $2,500 for each sighting of someone in what it considers the wrong restroom.

Why can’t local school districts continue to be trusted to work through restroom and locker room accommodations for all students, no matter their gender identity, without state mandates and federal threats?

And what’s wrong with allowing the gender on a birth certificate to be changed after gender reassignment surgery, which is the status quo in Kansas?

Efforts on both new fronts in the culture war could use less calculation about potential political gain, and more concern for the dignity and welfare of transgender individuals.