Archive for Wednesday, April 7, 2004

Transgender defendant wants jury trial

April 7, 2004

A transgender who was charged in Leavenworth County District Court after trying to obtain a marriage license wants the case to be heard by a jury.

Sandy Gast, a man who is preparing to become a woman, is charged with a misdemeanor count of making a false swearing on a marriage license application.

Gast's attorney, Pedro Irigonegaray, last week said he wants the case to go before a jury.

A hearing on the charges, originally set for last Wednesday, has been rescheduled for 11 a.m. April 21, when Irigonegaray is expected to officially request a jury trial.

Gast's case has attracted some attention.

Last Wednesday, as Gast and Irigonegaray met inside with the county attorney, representatives of outspoken Topeka minister Fred Phelps stood outside the justice center in Leavenworth holding anti-gay and political signs.

One demonstrator, standing on an American flag, held a sign that read "Thank God for Sept. 11."

No altercations occurred between the Phelps group and Gast.

Inside the judicial center, law enforcement officials stood guard and later escorted Gast out of the courtroom.

Before the hearing was to begin, County Attorney Frank Kohl and Irigonegaray exchanged words.

Irigonegaray said later that he was not happy that Kohl referred to Gast as a man.

"My objection is that I think the inappropriateness of referring to Sandy as mister needs to come to an end," Irigonegaray said.

Kansas law states that residents are recognized as their original sex, regardless of attempts to change that.

Last month, Gast changed the sex on a driver's license, social security card and birth certificate, according to officials with the county attorney's office.

Gast had planned to marry Georgi Somers on March 20 in Topeka. Somers is a man living as a woman.

The couple, however, never made it to the altar because Somers' daughter, who lives in Michigan, e-mailed pictures of the couple to Leavenworth County law enforcement officials.

As for the demonstrations outside the justice center, Irigonegaray, who was hired to represent Gast by the American Civil Liberties Union, said the demonstration was unfortunate.

"These people are a misinformed group," the lawyer said. "Those protesters are a manifestation of how ignorance breeds bigotry and hate. Fortunately, bigotry and hate have nothing to do with the law, and we ignored it."

After being charged last month, Gast spent six hours in jail. Gast alleges a strip-search was performed by a male officer.

"In my opinion, Sandy was treated in an insulting, horrific, abusive, unnecessary and illegal fashion," Irigonegaray said.

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