Gov. Kelly, AG Kobach spar over new transgender law days ahead of taking effect

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly and Attorney General Kris Kobach shared differing opinions Thursday on a new Kansas law.
Published: Jun. 29, 2023 at 3:55 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Kansas Governor Laura Kelly and Attorney General Kris Kobach shared differing opinions Thursday on a new Kansas law.

Senate Bill 180 establishes the women’s bill of rights to provide a meaning of biological sex for purposes of statutory construction. Senate Bill 180 goes into effect on July 1.

On Monday, June 26, Attorney General Kobach published an opinion on how certain parts of the bill will be handled legally. Kelly said in a statement Thursday that she would direct state agencies to continue as they have.

“I have directed the agencies to follow SB 180 according to their legal counsel’s interpretation of the law,” Gov. Kelly said. “While my administration and the Attorney General’s Office have had many conversations about the law, KDHE and KDOR disagree about its impacts on their operations and will instead keep in place their policies regarding gender markers on birth certificates and driver’s licenses.”

Attorney General Kobach’s opinion requires the Kansas Department of Revenue (KDOR) to list individuals’ biological sex at birth on driver’s licenses. It requires the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) to list a person’s biological gender at birth on birth certificates. It also requires that only biological females be housed in a specific portion of the Topeka Correctional Facility.

“State records must be accurate and reflect the truth as defined in state law. A birth certificate is a record of what happened at the moment a baby came out of the womb. That baby weighed a specific amount and was a specific sex,” Kobach said. “Similarly, a driver’s license is a state document reflecting a state database for state purposes. It is not a canvas on which a person can paint one’s expression and preferences.”

The Attorney General’s Office notified the state Departments of Revenue, Health, and Environment and Corrections prior to the press conference. Gov. Kelly vetoed Senate Bill 180, but lawmakers overrode her veto.

In response to Governor Kelly announcing she will not comply with the changes commanded by Senate Bill 180, Attorney General Kobach released the following statement on Thursday, June 29:

“The Governor has stated that SB 180 changes nothing with respect to driver’s licenses and birth certificates. That is nonsense. The Legislature passed SB 180 and overrode Governor Kelly’s veto specifically to ensure that those documents reflect biological sex at birth. The Governor doesn’t get to veto a bill and then ignore the Legislature’s override. She is violating her oath of office to uphold Kansas law. We will see her in court.”

Senate President Ty Masterson also provided a statement on Thursday, June 29 in regards to Senate Bill 180.

“Article I of the Kansas Constitution says the governor ‘shall be responsible for the enforcement of the laws of this state.’ That includes the laws her radical base does not support, like the Women’s Bill of Rights. The clear intent of the supermajority of the people’s representatives was to stop the indefensible and unscientific practice of changing vital statistics and legal identification,” said Masterson, who added, “Accordingly, I support aggressive action by our attorney general to uphold the law and hold this administration accountable. Their oaths were to the Kansas Constitution, not the radical ideology of the extreme left.”

As of Thursday, June 29, both KDHE and KDOR have information on their websites regarding how Senate Bill 180 impacts their operations.