MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Three transgender individuals filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Alabama saying the state won’t allow them to change the gender listing of their driver’s licenses without proof that they’ve undergone surgery.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the plaintiffs, said the requirement to show proof of sex-altering surgery is an unconstitutional violation of privacy, free speech and a person’s ability to make their own medical decisions.
Gabriel Arkles, senior staff attorney with the ACLU, said many transgender people cannot afford the surgery or don’t want it.
“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,” Arkles said.
A spokeswoman for the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said she could not comment because she had not seen the lawsuit.
Arkles said states and the federal government allow people to change the gender identity on a government-issued ID without proof of surgery. The ACLU said Alabama is one of about nine states that require proof of surgery to change the gender identification on a state ID.
“I am taking this stand, not just to respect my own dignity and worth, but to respect the dignity and worth of every transgender person in Alabama because the state of Alabama does not have the right to define our identities or our worth,” Darcy Corbitt, one of the plaintiffs, said in a Tuesday call with reporters.
Corbitt said she was humiliated after moving back to Alabama when she went to get a license. She said the clerk’s friendliness evaporated when she saw her previous Alabama license listed male under gender and also referred to her as “it” and “he.”
Corbitt said she was able to change the listing on her federal documents, and North Carolina license, but not in Alabama where she is studying for her doctorate degree.
“I have not spent the last seven years of my life undoing 21 years of other people defining my identity to sit back and let the state of Alabama dictate to me who I am and what I have to do to prove it to them,” Corbitt said.
In the lawsuit, another plaintiff, Destiny Clark, said she had gender surgery and sent a letter from her doctor, but the state did not allow her to change her license because an official said the “treatment was inadequate.”
Similar lawsuits have been filed in other states, including in Alaska in 2011.