Alabama can't force trans surgery for accurate licenses, federal court rules

Sat. January 30, 2021 8:50 AM by Gerald Farinas

photo credit // lena balk on unsplash
A federal court struck down Alabama's requirement to prove gender-change surgery to affirm a person's chosen gender identity on a driver's license or state identification card. Three transgender residents sued the state in 2018 when they were denied accurate IDs without proof of surgery.

U.S. District Court judge Myron H. Thompson ruled, “Alabama may no longer make people's genitalia determine the contents of their driver licenses.”

The Americans Civil Liberties Union of Alabama filed the case on behalf of Darcy Corbitt, Destiny Clark, and an unnamed third plaintiff.

“The state compromised the safety and wellbeing of these individuals and exposed them to a higher risk of harassment,” the ACLU argued.

“I know who I am, and finally the state of Alabama will be required to respect me and provide an accurate driver's license,” Corbitt said upon winning the appeal.

The expiration of Corbitt's out-of-state driver's license affected daily life.

“I have had to rely on friends and family to help me pick up groceries, get to church, and get to my job. I missed a family member's funeral because I just had no way to get there. But the alternative—lying about who I am to get an Alabama license that endangered and humiliated me every time I used it—was not an option.”

ACLU of Alabama legal director Tish Gotell Faulks said, “The court rightfully saw that 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.”

The Transgender Legal Defense Fund weighed in.

“I hope other states that still have similar rules will change them without being taken to court,” senior counsel Gabriel Arkles said. “Trans people are the experts on our own genders, and we have the right to equal access to identification we can safely use. We will keep fighting dangerous and discriminatory policies like these until none remain.”

The ruling does not affect Alabama's requirement for surgery to obtain an amended birth certificate.