Kansas has reached the next stage in its battle over government recognition of transgender identities. Democratic Governor Laura Kelly joined other Democratic state leaders in 2019 by allowing people to change the gender listed on their birth certificates. But the GOP-controlled legislature passed a new law this year overriding Kelly’s veto and defining gender as the sex of a person assigned at birth and ensuring that official state documents would reflect that reality. The howls of protest have already begun, but the policy is in place, and barring any future reversals, no such altered birth certificates will be issued. (Associated Press)
Kansas will no longer change transgender people’s birth certificates to reflect their gender identities, the state health department said Friday, citing a new law that prevents the state from legally recognizing those identities.
The decision from the state Department of Health and Environment makes Kansas one of a handful of states that won’t change transgender people’s birth certificates. It already was among the few states that don’t change the gender marker on transgender people’s driver’s licenses.
Those decisions reverse policies that Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s administration set when she took office in 2019. They came in response to court filings by conservative Republican state Attorney General Kris Kobach to enforce the new state law.
When the law initially passed, Governor Kelly had said that she planned to continue enforcing the policy she enacted. But after protests arose from the legislature, she announced yesterday that she still believes this change is wrong, but she is”committed to following the law.” So apparently the matter is settled, at least for now.
This is a sensible move by Kansas and more states should follow this course of action. Not only does it retain some semblance of common sense in official government policy, but the idea of allowing people to change their gender on their birth certificates or driver’s licenses is simply wrong no matter the reason they give for wishing to do so. Anyone can legally change their name following the established rules. You can change your name from Fred to Wilma for all I care, provided that the changes are made public as all states require.
But changing your gender changes your fundamental identity of record. People could be claiming to be transgender to escape creditors. Criminals could attempt to make it harder for the law to track them down by doing this. And then there’s the basic science underlying all of this. (Actual science, not The Science.) With the exception of some vanishingly rare individuals who are validly intersex because of genetic mutations leading to ambiguous genitalia, people are the gender that was established when the mother’s egg was fertilized. (Accommodations should always be made for truly intersex people in accordance with the family’s wishes.) No amount of wishful thinking or “identifying” is going to change that. And the government should not be obligated to distort public records in that fashion.
Even with these recent changes to Kansas law, other questions still remain. What about the birth certificates that were already changed? I suppose the state could retroactively issue new replacements with the correct gender identification and declare the altered ones to be invalid. But you can probably imagine the lawsuits that would follow. This is going to wind up creating an administrative mess no matter how you try to approach it.
What Kansas has done here is in line with a discussion I was having on air with one of our Salem radio hosts this week. Ever since this transgender craze and social contagion really began kicking into gear a few years ago, conservatives have been far too accommodating in the interest of “going along to get along.” That makes sense because it’s a fairly fundamental conservative principle. Do what you like with your own body as long as you’re of legal age to provide consent, and you’re prepared to take responsibility for the consequences. Call yourself whatever you like, just as long as you don’t try to mandate that speech for others. In other words, do your own thing and do no harm to others. But too many were far too accommodating and, of course, people did start trying to mandate speech for others and even alter official records in an unscientific and potentially problematic fashion. The horse was out of the barn on this issue before most of us had a chance to get a grip on what was really happening. And now there’s a serious mess to clean up on aisle nine.