Alabama State Capitol – Photo: Carol M. Highsmith.
The American Civil Liberties Union and ALCU of Alabama have filed a lawsuit against the state for its policy of restricting access to driver’s licenses for transgender people that accurately reflect their gender identity.
The lawsuit, Corbitt v. Taylor, was filed on behalf of three transgender clients who were denied the chance to update their gender on their licenses. Under Alabama’s current policy, transgender individuals must provide proof of surgery, regardless of whether it was deemed medically necessary, whether it was wanted, or whether it cost too much to obtain. It is currently one of only 9 states that explicitly require surgery before a gender marker change will be granted.
Additionally, state officials only accept some forms of gender confirmation surgery as “proof” of a transition, which means that some transgender individuals can still be denied a gender marker change even if they’ve undergone surgery. Unsurprisingly, that means a majority of transgender Alabamans do not have an accurate form of identification that correctly reflects their gender identity.
The three plaintiffs — Darcy Corbitt, Destiny Clark, and John Doe — have all been negatively affected by the policy in some way. Both Corbitt and Clark have had state officials seek out detailed and invasive information about their medical and surgical histories, even calling their doctors without the women’s consent in order to obtain intimate details about their medical history. And even then, the state refused to issue updated licenses to the women.
Clark avoids lawful activities if they would require her to show identification. Doe, a transgender man, experiences distress every time he sees the wrong gender on his license. And Corbitt was misgendered in front of a room of people by an insensitive clerk
“This clerk chose to publicly humiliate me by loudly discussing my gender identity, the most intimate part of my life, in a room full of strangers,” Corbitt said in a statement. “She insulted me and disrespected me, referring to me as ‘he’ and ‘him.’ She dehumanized me when she started calling me ‘it.’
“I have not spent the last seven years of my life undoing 21 years other people defining my identity to just sit back and allow the state of Alabama to dictate to me who I am and what I have to do to prove it to them,” Corbitt said. “I have not endured ridicule from friends, family, and complete strangers and death threats to simply ignore a civil servant whose wages my taxes pay belittling me and mocking me to my face and in front of my neighbors.”
The lawsuit asks the court to declare Alabama’s policy regarding gender marker changes unconstitutional, and to order the state to issue updated licenses to those who seek to alter their gender marker.
“Transgender people — like all people — deserve to live their lives without the government compromising their privacy, safety, autonomy, dignity, or equality,” Gabriel Arkles, senior staff attorney with the ACLU, said in a statement. “All people have a right to make their own healthcare decisions free from government coercion. 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.”
“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, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Alabama, said in a statement. “Surgery is not what all transgender people need, want, or can afford. 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.
“But even when one of our clients had surgery, the state still refused to change the gender on our client’s license,” Boone concluded. “This discrimination forces transgender Alabamians to out themselves every time someone sees their driver’s license, which puts them at increased risk for violence and harassment.”