Fewer than 10 states now require transgender residents to provide proof of surgery to change the gender markers on their driver’s licenses.
By Jo Yurcaba
Jan. 29, 2021
Alabama’s policy requiring transgender people to have undergone gender-affirming surgery before they can get state IDs that accurately reflect their gender identities is unconstitutional, a federal court ruled this month.
Fewer than 10 states now require proof of surgery to update the gender marker on a driver’s license.
The Alabama case began in 2018, when three transgender people — Darcy Corbitt, Destiny Clark and an unnamed third person — sued the state after they were denied driver’s licenses that reflected their genders, opposed to their sexes assigned at birth, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
“The policy for driver’s licenses, which is what we challenged with this lawsuit, requires that people either submit an amended birth certificate or submit proof of having had what they call ‘complete surgery,'” which Alabama interprets to mean both “genital surgery and top surgery,” said the lawyer who litigated the case, Gabriel Arkles, senior counsel at the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. An amended birth certificate also requires proof of surgery, although this case didn’t challenge that rule.
On Jan. 15, the U.S. District Court for Middle Alabama, part of the 11th Circuit, ruled that Policy Order 63, the state’s driver’s license policy for transgender people, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment because it discriminates based on sex.
“By making the content of people’s driver licenses depend on the nature of their genitalia, the policy classifies by sex; under Equal Protection Clause doctrine, it is subject to an intermediate form of heightened scrutiny,” Senior Judge Myron Thompson, who was nominated to the court by President Jimmy Carter, wrote in the opinion.
Arkles said that any time officials make a policy that treats people differently based on sex, “they have to have a very good reason for what they’re doing, and here they really did not.”