A transgender woman from California who, after going to the Department of Motor Vehicles in San Francisco to amend official documents to reflect her gender identity, received a letter from a DMV clerk telling her that she was going to hell for the abomination of homosexuality, has reached a $55,000 dollar settlement.
The woman in question, Amber Yust, took the DMV to court over the fact the employee, who had a known history of refusing service to trans applicants, had been able to purposefully retain Yust’s personal information to send harassing letters and materials regarding her gender identity, including one message that said homosexuals should be “put to death.”
This, Yust charged, was a failure on the DMV’s part to protect her privacy.
The Transgender Law Center took up Yust’s case and filed a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court in December 2010.
Yust, through her attorneys Chris Dolan and the Transgender Law Center, filed a lawsuit in December 2010 against the DMV, alleging violating of her rights under the California Information Practices Act and Unruh Civil Rights Act. Yust brought similar claims against the DMV employee, who voluntarily resigned from his position with the DMV shortly after the incident.
The matter resolved with the State of California for $40,000, and with the former DMV employee for $15,000. As a part of the settlement, the DMV agreed to work with the Transgender Law Center in an effort to incorporate transgender sensitivity into its ongoing employee training.
Dolan said, “this suit affirms the right of all people to equal access to government services, regardless of their orientation or decision to make a transition to live life as their full and complete self. In the big picture, this suit promotes the privacy rights of all Californians by ensuring that confidential information retained by our government stays confidential.”
Kristina Wertz, legal director of the Transgender Law Center said “All Californians have the right to do something as simple as going to the DMV without fear of harassment and threats of violence. What happened to Amber reminds us that for transgender people, our state’s promise of equal treatment is often unfulfilled. The case serves as a reminder to all businesses that nobody should be treated differently simply because of who they are.”
There are currently several ongoing cases throughout the U.S. in which trans citizens are suing over a failure to change their gender identity on official records, including one case in Alaska where a trans woman has been able to change her pilot’s license to reflect her gender identity but the DMV has refused to change her driving license. Read more on that here.