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Michigan driver’s license policy violates transgender rights, ACLU says

Six transgender men and women have recently called into question Michigan’s driver’s license policy.

As it stands, people who want to change their gender on a Michigan license must show proof of a change on their birth certificate. But a birth certificate is only amended if the person undergoes a gender reassignment surgery.

The ACLU of Michigan has filed a suit on behalf of the six individuals. It accuses Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson — who implemented the current policy in 2011 — of violating free speech, privacy and equal protection rights under the existing law. They say a woman or man whose license displays their opposite gender requires an individual to divulge personal information in order to prove their identity.

The suit argues:

Due to the Driver’s License Policy, Plaintiffs and other transgender individuals in Michigan are forced to carry a driver’s license or state ID card that reflects the incorrect gender, causing them significant psychological and emotional harm and placing them at risk of bodily harm. They are forced to carry and show to others a basic identity document that fails to reflect an essential aspect of personhood — their gender. Denying Plaintiffs and other transgender people a driver’s license that matches their gender identity and lived gender results in the routine disclosure of their transgender status, as well as their medical condition and treatment, to complete strangers.

Emani Love, one of the plaintiffs in the case, told the ACLU, “I’m very comfortable and confident in who I am, but I shouldn’t have to divulge my personal information or ‘come out’ as a trans person every time I want to cash a check or cast a ballot. I just want ID that is truthful in its description of who I really am.”

Michigan is not the only state to require a birth certificate as justification for a gender change on a license. In April, South Carolina changed its driver’s license policy after a transgender teenager filed a suit in September 2014 that accused the Department of Motor Vehicles of sex discrimination and free speech violation.

Watch tonight’s PBS NewsHour for our latest “Transgender in America” report.

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