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A joint press release from The Transgender Law & Policy Institute, The Transgender Law Center, and The National Center for Transgender Equality

CONTACT:

Kylar Broadus: 573-424-0237
Pedro Irigonegaray: 718-267-6115

Breaking News -- November 16, 2004

Court dismisses charges against transsexual woman prosecuted for "gender fraud"

Leavenworth, Kansas--A Leavenworth Superior Court Judge dismissed all charges against Sandy Gast, a transgender woman who was brutally taken from her home, incarcerated, and prosecuted  for the "crime" of living her life as a woman.

In April 2004, Ms. Gast filled out a marriage license to enter into a marriage with Georgi Sommers.  Like many transgender women around the country, Ms. Gast listed herself as female. Based on this action, the Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office arrested Ms. Gast for violation of a Kansas statute pertaining to false swearing.  "Essentially, Leavenworth County has decided that when transgender people live our lives fully, expressing our gender identities, we are defrauding the state," said Kylar Broadus, Board Member of the Transgender Law and Policy Institute and Missouri-based practicing attorney. 

"Thankfully, this kind of twisted legal reasoning, which wastes valuable public resources and destroys peoples lives, is rare," Broadus said.  "Nonetheless the consequences for Ms. Gast have been devastating.  She has been forced to run a gauntlet of official mistreatment, harassment, and cruelty that no person ever should have to endure."    

In what is believed to be the first prosecution of its kind, Leavenworth County took an unusually hard line in prosecuting Ms.Gast. The "crime" of which Ms. Gast is accused is a minor infraction, yet the local authorities had her arrested and sought and obtained a jail bond for five times the amount of the maximum fine Ms. Gast would have been required to pay if she were found guilty.

"The irregularities in how this case was prosecuted are all too familiar," said Chris Daley, an attorney with the Transgender Law Center. "Oftentimes, transgender people are subjected to punishment or scrutiny far in excess of that generally imposed in cases involving non-transgender parties. This is yet another example that transphobia is alive and well in our nation's criminal and civil justice systems."

Ms. Gast was represented by Pedro Irigonegaray, who explained to the court that Ms. Gast sincerely identifies as a female and had no criminal intent in representing herself as such.  Dr. Eric Vilain, a leading international authority on the relation between genetics and gender identity and the chief of the Department of Genetics at UCLA, presented expert testimony on behalf of Ms. Gast.  Dr. Vilain testified that in determining a person's sex, gender identity is the most important factor.   

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The Transgender Law Center (TLC) is a civil rights organization advocating for transgender communities. Every day we connect transgender people and their families to technically sound and culturally competent legal services, increase acceptance and enforcement of laws and policies that support California's transgender communities, and work to change laws and systems that fail to incorporate the needs and experiences of transgender people. For more information, visit www.transgenderlaw.org.

The Transgender Law & Policy Institute (TLPI) is dedicated to engaging in effective advocacy for transgender people in our society. The TLPI brings experts and advocates together to work on law and policy initiatives designed to advance transgender equality. For more information, visit www.transgenderlaw.org.

The National Center for Equality (NCTE) is a Washington, DC-based social justice organization dedicated to advancing the equality of transgender people through advocacy, collaboration and empowerment.  www.nctequality.org