ACLU sues Alabama for not letting transgender people change their sex on their drivers licenses

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- A lawsuit against the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency by the Americal Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Alabama was filed Tuesday morning on behalf of three transgendered individuals. The suit says Alabama restricts access to drivers licenses for transgender people by not reflecting their gender identity.

The ACLU says Alabama is one of nine states that require surgery or a court order that typically requires proof of surgery, before issuing a change of gender for drivers licenses.

The lawsuit, Corbitt v. Taylor, states that the "Alabama government has violated the privacy, due process, free speech, and equal protection rights of Darcy Corbitt, Destiny Clark and a third, unnamed plaintiff."

Brock Boone, staff attorney with the ACLU of Alabama, said, “It is baffling that the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency requires surgery to change the gender on a driver's license when the federal government does not require surgery, and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators instructs states not to require surgery. Surgery is not what all transgender people need, want, or can afford."

One of the plaintiffs in the suit, Darcy Corbitt, says she has had Alabama officials ask for more invasive information about her medical and surgical history. She claims officials called her doctor's office without her consent to get detailed records.

The ACLU says that transgender people in Alabama have to get by without a license or accept one that shows the wrong gender, and therefore, puts them at a high risk of harassment and violence.

Corbitt is an LGBTQ+ advocate. She described her experience with a clerk in Opelika when trying to obtain new identification after moving back to Alabama from South Dakota in August.

"She was really nice to me until she pulled up my driver's license record from when I had been living here in the past. She saw on that license that my gender was associated as male and then she started treating me very poorly," recalled Corbitt.

Corbitt says the situation escalated to the point where the employee addressed her as 'it' and officials called her doctor's office without her consent to get detailed records.

“This clerk chose to publicly humiliate me by loudly discussing my gender identity, the most intimate part of my life, in a room full of strangers,” said Corbitt. “She insulted me and disrespected me, referring to me as ‘he’ and ‘him.’ She dehumanized me when she started calling me ‘it.’ I have not spent the last seven years of my life undoing 21 years other people defining my identity to just sit back and allow the state of Alabama to dictate to me who I am and what I have to do to prove it to them. I have not endured ridicule from friends, family, and complete strangers and death threats to simply ignore a civil servant whose wages my taxes pay belittling me and mocking me to my face and in front of my neighbors.”

The ACLU cites an ALEA directive referred to in the suit as 'Policy 63.' The lawsuit says the policy only provides for changing the gender on a license if the person has had gender reassignment surgery.

"We went the state to change that policy to bring it more in mind with best practices both in the medical field as well as the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators."

ALEA's website does list the steps that need to be taken for a name change but not a gender change. We reached out to ALEA officials but were told they do not comment on pending litigation.

Corbitt says how a person is identified on a driver's license can have very real consequences. "The law enforcement officer who looks at that license may be confused, concerned. May think that they're trying to, they have some sort of forged license."

Corbitt says she hopes the suit helps the transgender community in Alabama. "I'm more interested in seeing Alabama becoming a safer, more affirming place for transgender people."

You can read more about Darcy Corbitt here.