Photo above (left to right): Lambda Legal Attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, plaintiff Luc Bensimon, BCLP Partner Jim Lawrence, plaintiff Nyla Foster, BCLP Associate Sarah Holdmeyer and Summer Associate TJ Blake

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, working as pro bono counsel alongside client Lambda Legal, has succeeded in arguing that transgender people in Kansas should have the ability to obtain birth certificates that accurately reflect their gender identity. 

BCLP and Lambda Legal argued in Foster v. Andersen 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 said 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 argued that this policy stands in contrast with Kansas’s own policy permitting correction of the gender marker on drivers’ licenses and state identification cards.

Under the consent judgment entered by the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas on June 21, the court orders the secretary for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and other Kansas government officials to provide accurate birth certificates that reflect a person’s true sex, consistent with their gender identity, and agrees that the policy prohibiting gender marker corrections to birth certificates violated the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.

“We at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner are pleased with this result and honored to have co-counseled this case with Lambda Legal on behalf of these brave clients to ensure that transgender Kansans receive equal treatment under the law and have access to government documents that accurately reflect their true sex, consistent with their gender identity,” Kansas City Partner Jim Lawrence said. The BCLP team also included San Francisco Counsel Katherine Keating, Kansas City Associate Sarah Holdmeyer and Summer Associate TJ Blake.

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 identity were harassed, denied benefits or services, discriminated against or assaulted. Transgender individuals also are targeted for hate crimes.

“This is a tremendous victory for all transgender people born in Kansas. By acknowledging that its policy prohibiting transgender Kansans from correcting the sex designation on their birth certificates was discriminatory and unconstitutional, the State of Kansas has done the right thing and has taken a huge step forward,” said Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan. “This court-issued judgment builds not only on our recent court victories striking down similar policies prohibiting transgender people born in Idaho and Puerto Rico from having accurate birth certificates, but also upon years of advocacy by transgender Kansans. With this judgment Kansas will now finally be in line with the rest of the country, where already 47 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico have acknowledged the importance of individuals having access to essential identity documents that accurately reflect who they are.”

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly issued a statement on this decision, saying in part “It was time for Kansas to move past its outdated and discriminatory anti-transgender policy. This decision acknowledges that transgender people have the same rights as anyone else, including the right to easily obtain a birth certificate that reflects who they are.”

Read more about the decision on Lambda Legal’s website.