This lawsuit challenges Alabama’s policy prohibiting gender marker changes on drivers’ licenses for trans people who have not had genital surgery. The defendants are all officials in the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), the Department of Public Safety, and its Driver License Division, who are responsible for enacting and enforcing the policy. Alabama is one of a relatively small number of states that still requires surgery (and not just any surgery, but specific genital surgery) for a gender marker change on a drivers’ license.

We represent Darcy Corbitt, Destiny Clark, and John Doe. Darcy is a trans woman raised in Alabama who lived in North Dakota for several years. She recently returned to Alabama for graduate school. While in North Dakota, she updated her passport and North Dakota driver’s license to reflect her female gender. When she arrived in Alabama, she tried to get an Alabama license with female listed, but the worker located her old records from Alabama that reflected her assigned sex at birth and refused to issue her an Alabama license with female listed. The worker then tried to seize her North Dakota license, but Darcy insisted on getting it back. Darcy has not had any gender-affirming surgery, and thus cannot provide the documentation the ALEA demands for an accurate ID.

Destiny is a trans woman who tried to change her gender on her drivers’ license with a letter from the surgeon who performed her breast augmentation surgery. Her request was referred to someone in the central Montgomery office, who contacted that surgeon and asked for details, and then refused the request because she had not had bottom surgery.

John Doe is a trans man who grew up in Montgomery. He managed to get his name changed with a court order a few weeks ago, but was unsuccessful getting the gender marker changed on his driver’s license. Doe has received medical treatment for gender dysphoria, but he has not received any surgical treatment. While he believes one form of surgical treatment will be necessary for him, he is not yet eligible for insurance coverage for the procedure.

Our claims are:

Privacy/due process.

  • The state’s policy of conditioning receipt of a government benefit (accurate ID) on undergoing surgery violates the right to bodily autonomy included within the right to privacy.

  • People have a fundamental right to express their gender identity.

  • The state’s policy violates transgender people’s informational privacy rights, because it forces them to disclose that they are trans any time they show their ID.

First Amendment. The government is compelling people to convey the message that they are not the gender they know themselves to be, and compelling them to out themselves as transgender without legitimate reason.

Equal Protection. The policy and its implementation affects only transgender people and discriminates against them on the basis of sex, as well as on the basis of transgender status. The differential treatment of transgender people furthers no compelling or important government interest, nor is the differential treatment narrowly tailored, substantially related to, or the least restrictive alternative for promoting a state interest. Nor is there a rational connection between any legitimate governmental interest and defendants’ disparate treatment of transgender people.

The defendants have answered and discovery is underway. The deadline for summary judgment motions is February 8, 2019, and trial, if necessary, starting September 9, 2019.

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