The ACLU Sues Alabama Over Unjust Transgender Driver’s License Policy

Alabama is one of nine states that require trans people to undergo genital change surgery in order to be issued a new driver’s license. But now the ACLU is suing to change that discriminatory policy. 

The civil rights grouped filed the case on behalf of three plaintiffs, Darcy Corbitt, Destiny Clark and a third, unnamed plaintiff. The suit charges that, by refusing to issue updated and accurate ID documents, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency — and, by extension, Alabama’s state government — has violated the privacy, due process, free speech and equal protection rights guaranteed to plaintiffs under the Constitution. 

Alabama’s policy for changing gender markers on a driver’s license means that a person must have proof of a previous genital change surgery. And this creates a number of likely unlawful and deeply harmful barriers for trans people.

While many trans people desire genital change surgery to feel that they have completed their gender affirmation treatment, the procedure is incredibly costly. And that fact alone can prevent people from being able to undergo the required surgeries.

However, for some trans people, genital change surgery isn’t necessary. Those individuals are comfortable with their gender affirmation and do not need this surgical step in order to complete their physical gender transition. Requiring these people to undergo genital change surgery is deeply harmful.

Supporters of the policy may defend it by claiming that a person doesn’t technically need a driver’s license in order to carry on with their lives, but that’s a troublingly narrow view.

Driver’s licenses are a standard form of identification, and, as a result, they may be required for a range of everyday interactions — from providing ID for a job interview or for dealings at a bank, to signing up for the gym or visiting a night club.This rule means that trans people are forced to choose between having an old ID that no longer matches their presentation or going through genital change surgery.

As a real-world example of the harms this kind of policy can inflict on trans people, the ACLU tells plaintiff Destiny Clark‘s story:

One of our other plaintiffs, Destiny Clark, has had to contend with Alabama officials seeking out ever more invasive information about her medical and surgical history, at one point even calling her doctor’s office without her consent to get detailed records. And even with all that information, Alabama still refused to change the gender marker on her license. As a result, Destiny has adapted her life to minimize her chances of needing to show her ID. Choices that many non-transgender people take for granted, like heading to a club with friends or going out for a drink, are off limits for Destiny.

Alabama’s Law Enforcement Agency has reportedly refused to comment.

Encouragingly, lawsuits challenging similar laws in other states have been successful. For example, an Alaskan court  ruled that questions about genital change surgery and other personal details are needlessly invasive and represent government overreach.

This notion was echoed by Gabriel Arkles, senior staff attorney with the ACLU, who explained:

It’s outrageous to make an accurate, useable driver’s license depend on having had a sort of health care that has nothing to do with one’s ability to drive. At the end of the day, transgender people are who we say we are regardless of what health care we have had.

The Alaska litigation was resolved in 2012, and given the progress that was made under the Obama administration, we would hope that this latest suit will arrive at the same conclusion. However, the federal government is under very different management, and the Trump administration is openly hostile to transgender rights. And that reality sets a tone that emboldens similarly hostile federal and state courts.

Nevertheless, fighting this battle remains absolutely crucial because this kind of invasive government policing could put trans people in real danger.

Photo Credit: Ted Eytan/Flickr

52 comments

Marie W
Marie W2 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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DAVID fleming
Dave fleming6 months ago

Tfs

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Lesa D
Lesa D7 months ago

thank you ACLU!

thank you Steve...

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Elaine W
Elaine W7 months ago

God bless the ACLU. God IS love.

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Elaine W
Elaine W7 months ago

I support the ACLU. Thanks.

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Chad A
Chad Anderson7 months ago

Thank you.

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DAVID fleming
Dave fleming8 months ago

Ty

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Paulo R
Paulo R8 months ago

ty

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Joan E
Joan E8 months ago

Alabama, please get out of the dark ages and stay out of people's private business. Your religious beliefs and prejudices should not be foisted on people who do not share them, as the US Constitution makes clear.

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John B
John B8 months ago

Thanks For sharing.

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