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Lawsuit: Alabama Discriminates Against Transgender People Who Want to Change Their Driver’s License

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Alabama is one of at least a dozen states that prevents transgender people from obtaining a driver’s license that reflects their gender identity unless they first undergo surgery.

Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Alabama filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging an Alabama policy they say discriminates against transgender people who want to change the gender designation on their driver’s license.

Policy Order 63 provides for changing the gender designation on a driver license and states that it can be changed only “due to gender reassignment surgery,” according to the complaint. The policy requires applicants to submit “[a]n amended state certified birth certificate and/or a letter from the physician that performed the reassignment procedure.”
These requirements, the ACLU attorneys argue, violate constitutional due process, privacy, and speech rights.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of three transgender people who claim they were discriminated against under the policy.  

“All people have a right to make their own health care decisions free from government coercion,” Gabriel Arkles, senior staff attorney with the ACLU, said in a statement. “They have a right to keep their personal information private. They have a right not to endorse a message from the government with which they disagree. They have the right not to be discriminated against by the government for who they are.”

“And in addition to endangering transgender people, Alabama’s policy—and other policies like it—violate the law.”

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Alabama is one of at least a dozen states that prevents transgender people from obtaining a driver’s license that reflects their gender identity unless they first undergo surgery. Tuesday’s lawsuit challenges only the Alabama policy, but Arkles’ statement suggests more challenges could be coming.

The lawsuit asks the court to block the state’s proof of surgery requirement.

“It is baffling that the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency requires surgery to change the gender on a driver’s license when the federal government does not require surgery, and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators instructs states not to require surgery,” Brock Boone, staff attorney with the ACLU of Alabama, said in a statement. “The state does not have a right to determine which medical procedures a person has, nor can they force surgery on an entire class of people.”

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