The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the state of Alaska on behalf of a transgender woman who has been denied the right to change the sex on her driver's license without providing proof that she has underwent gender reassignment surgery.
The lawsuit [pdf], which was filed in Anchorage, states the DMV's refusal to correct the sex designation on an applicant's driver's license is unconstitutional and violates their rights of privacy.
Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Alaska said in a news release, “It is unfair and unnecessary to require that transgender people undergo prohibitively expensive and drastic surgery in order to have accurate identity documents. No one should have to disclose sensitive personal information or be forced to make major medical decisions in order to get a driver's license.”
The woman at the center of the lawsuit is a pilot in Alaska and identified only as K.L. She has lived and worked as a woman for two years, reflected in both her work documents and banking records. K.L.'s passport also lists her as female, which meets State Department guidelines for passports issued after June 2010.
For a United States passport to reflect a change in gender, the government requires that an applicant present certification from an attending medical physician that states the person has undergone appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition, according to a report by Digital Journal.
The passport gender marker has caused confusion for some transgender individuals who were born in states that refuse to make any changes to the sex listed on an individual's birth certificate. This can extend to driver's license discrepancies. "The conflicting documents can put a transgendered person in danger of discrimination and physical harm," said K.L.
According to the ACLU, the appellant had applied for a driver's license, providing her passport and pilot's license as supporting documentation of her name change. Both forms of identification provided by the woman listed her sex as female. The Alaska Dispatch reports the DMV issued the license but later revoked it saying "she had not provided adequate proof -- documentation of surgery -- to have her sex changed from male to female on the license."
The lawsuit states that "K.L is receiving hormone therapy and could not imagine a circumstance in the future in which she would no longer identify as a woman," but has no plans to undergo the radical and expensive surgery necessary to meet the restrictive guidelines of the Alaska Department of Motor Vehicles.
The ACLU said in an earlier statement that "The American Psychiatric Association and medical experts agree that surgery is not medically necessary for some with gender identity disorder (GID). Some transgender people can be effectively treated without it, making it unnecessary for the state to confirm whether or not an individual has had surgery before correcting a license."
K.L. unsuccessfully appealed the decision by the DMV to cancel her driver's license. That's when the ACLU stepped in to file the lawsuit in Alaska State Court on Monday.
John Knight, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, said “The surgery requirement not only violates Alaska’s laws, it demonstrates a profound lack of understanding about what it means to be transgender. The state cannot deny transgender people an accurate driver’s license based on an arbitrary and unconstitutional policy that clashes with accepted medical standards.”