Lambda Legal Sues Kansas Over Discriminatory Anti-Transgender Policy: “Kansas is out of step with the rest of America.”

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October 15, 2018
Lambda plaintiffs Nyla Foster, Luc Bensimon, and Senior Attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan

Today Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit challenging Kansas’s refusal to correct the gender marker on Kansas birth certificates for transgender individuals. Kansas is one of just three states, along with Tennessee and Ohio, which has yet to change this extremely regressive and outdated policy.

“By not allowing transgender people like me to correct our birth certificates, the state complicates every aspect of our lives,” said plaintiff Luc Bensimon, a 46-year-old resident of Topeka, Kansas. “Having to present a birth certificate that incorrectly identifies me as female makes it easier for people to discriminate against me based on my gender identity, on top of the discrimination I already confront based on my disability.” added Bensimon, who suffers from a mild form of cerebral palsy.

“The birth certificate policy at issue in this case is archaic and discriminatory. Kansas is out of step with the rest of America. Forty-seven (47) states, DC, and Puerto Rico acknowledge the importance of individuals having access to essential government identity documents that accurately reflect their sex, consistent with their gender identity. It is about time Kansas joins them,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Senior Attorney at Lambda Legal. “By denying people the ability to correct their gender marker on their birth certificates, Kansas is forcing transgender people in effect to lie about who they are and to navigate life with inaccurate identity documents.”

Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas on behalf of Bensimon and three other transgender individuals born in Kansas -- Nyla Foster, Jessica Hicklin and a client identified by his initials, C.K. The lawsuit also has one organizational plaintiff, Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project, Inc. (K-STEP).

In the lawsuit, Foster v. Andersen, Lambda Legal argues that denying transgender people in Kansas the ability to obtain accurate birth certificates violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit also argues that forcing transgender individuals through their birth certificates to identify with a sex that is not who they are violates their free speech rights under the First Amendment. In addition, the lawsuit argues that this policy stands in stark contrast with Kansas’s own policy permitting correction of the gender marker on drivers’ licenses and state identification cards.

“I was able to correct the gender marker on my driver’s license, but I can’t do the same in my birth certificate, forcing me to disclose my transgender identity when I present these inconsistent documentation.” said 30-year-old plaintiff Nyla Foster.

According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, almost one-third of transgender individuals who showed an identity document with a name or gender marker that conflicted with their perceived gender were harassed, denied benefits or services, discriminated against or assaulted. Transgender individuals also are disproportionately targeted for hate crimes.

“Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner is honored to co-counsel with Lambda Legal to ensure that all Kansans can enjoy a life free of discrimination,” said Jim Lawrence, a partner at the law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP. “It is a privilege to represent the four individual plaintiffs and transgender members of the Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project. These plaintiffs bravely stand up for the rights of transgender citizens so that all Kansans may be provided an accurate government-issued document that serves as proof of a person’s identity. The firm is proud to celebrate diversity and fight all forms of discrimination.”

Handling the case on behalf of Lambda Legal are Senior Attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan and Law Fellow Attorney Kara Ingelhart. They are joined by pro-bono co-counsel Jim Lawrence, Katherine Keating, and Sarah Holdmeyer of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP.