LGBT — November 17, 2015 at 8:36 am

Federal judge: ACLU of Michigan case challenging state ID policy on gender markers will move forward


Lawsuit seeks to make it easier for transgender people to change the gender marker on their state IDs.

In a victory for fairness and anti-discrimination protections, on Monday a federal judge refused Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s motion to dismiss an ACLU lawsuit. The lawsuit challenges a state policy that makes it nearly impossible for transgender Michiganders to change gender markers on their driver’s licenses and state IDs.

In her decision, U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds held that “plaintiffs have raised a cognizable privacy claim.”

“Plaintiffs have offered a plethora of evidence which, accepted as true, suggests that the Policy poses a real threat to their ‘personal security and bodily integrity,'” Edmunds wrote.

Under Michigan’s current ID policy, the state refuses to change the gender on state-issued ID unless the person produces an amended birth certificate showing the correct gender. But that’s easier said than done for transgender people in Michigan. To receive an amended birth certificate in Michigan, a person is required by state law to undergo gender-confirmation surgery — an invasive medical procedure that not all transgender people need, want or can afford.

Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan’s LGBT Project, had this to say following the decision:

We are very pleased that our case will move forward. The judge made it clear that, when transgender people are unable to obtain accurate Michigan identity documents, they are forced to share highly intimate and personal medical information that can lead to discrimination, harassment, violence, and even death.

“By permitting us to have our day in court, the judge recognizes that being transgender and living in accordance with your gender identity is a serious, life-altering decision and that Michigan’s harmful and unworkable ID policy needs to be critically examined,” said Tina Seitz, one of six transgender plaintiffs in the case including transgender woman Emani Love, transgender man Codie Stone, and three other unnamed plaintiffs.

Love v. Johnson, filed in federal court in May 2015 by the ACLU, seeks to overturn the secretary of state’s ID policy as unconstitutional, dangerous, and a discriminatory refusal to respect gender identity. You can read Judge Edmunds’ full decision HERE.

For a deeper dive into what’s at stake for the plaintiffs and the importance of this case, read the post I wrote when the case was originally filed, featuring interviews with Kaplan, Seitz and transgender woman and advocate Amy Hunter.

We’ll keep you posted as the case moves forward.

[CC photo credit: J.-H. Janßen | Wikimedia Commons]