Federal Judge Dismissed ACLU's Challenge to SOS Driver's License Policy

BY BTL STAFF

Updated Wednesday, Aug. 24

Federal Judge Nancy Edmunds, on Aug. 23, made a disappointing decision to dismiss the ACLU's case, Love v. Johnson, challenging the Michigan Secretary of State's policy on gender marker changes to driver's licenses and state ID's, which makes it impossible for many transgender people to obtain an ID with the correct gender on it.

Edmunds' decision states: "In sum, the Court finds Johnson's voluntary cessation of the allegedly illegal conduct to be genuine. Hanging in the balance is a new, less restrictive policy that Plaintiffs agree conforms to 'current scientific knowledge and research regarding transgender individuals and the medical standard of care for treating persons diagnosed with gender dysphoria.' Because the old Policy has been abandoned, there is no longer a 'live controversy' between the parties, and the Court must, and does GRANT Defendant's motion to dismiss under the mootness doctrine."

As a result of Edmunds' November 2015 decision in this case that the SOS policy violated a transgender person's privacy rights by outing them to persons who see their licenses, the SOS in March 2016 amended its policy to allow a U.S. passport or passport card to be used to obtain a gender marker change on a license.

"This change brought about by the ACLU's lawsuit made it possible for many transgender people for the first time to obtain a license that correctly reflecting their gender" ACLU LGBT Staff Attorney Jay Kaplan said.

"It is a significant victory for transgender Michiganders. Moreover, Judge Edmunds made it clear that it would be a 'fool's errand' for the Secretary of State to revert to its former policy and warned that such action could be challenged in federal court."

While the ACLU is "very pleased about this change of policy, we remain concerned that the SOS policy still prevents members of the transgender community - such as documented immigrants who cannot obtain a U.S. passport and transgender persons too poor to afford a passport - from being able to get the correct ID," Kaplan said.

"Unlike other states, Michigan's policy requires transgender people to take on the expense and burden of obtaining a passport, which they may not want or need, in order to persuade the SOS to give them an accurate license or ID."

Between The Lines will continue to report on this story further. Watch for online updates.

Original Story:

LANSING -LGBT Special Projects Attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan, Jay Kaplan, met with Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson June 10 in a deposition over a recent revision to the state's policy on changing one's gender on state identification.

Kaplan served Johnson an out-of-court oral testimony regarding the recent state policy changes for those wishing to change their gender marker on their state identification, despite a request to U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds by Johnson's attorneys to not allow the deposition.

The office of the Secretary of State abruptly changed the policy in March, no longer requiring an amended birth certificate to change gender on one's driver's license or state ID and opened up the use of passports or passport cards.

The decision essentially dropped the state's mandate that a trans man or woman must get a letter signed by a doctor that they underwent sexual confirmation surgery to change their documents, so long as the individual purchases a passport.

Kaplan, lead attorney on the case, says the policy change still does not resolve all the challenges for trans residents to obtain changes on their state issued identification documents.

"Not everyone can get a passport. Not everyone can afford or needs a passport. For transgender people who are legally here, they can't access a passport," Kaplan said.

Johnson filed an affidavit May 17 and claimed that she was "not personally involved" in making past changes, though her staff was, and had no intention of making any more changes to the state's policy.

Last year the ACLU launched their suit against the SOS, Love v Johnson, on behalf of six trans plaintiffs, alleging that the 2011 policy change made it impossible for many trans people to change their state issued IDs. The ACLU has contacted Johnson's office every year since the change, requesting that the Secretary of State eliminate the surgery requirement.

Ultimately, the plaintiffs are seeking a court order declaring the state's policy unconstitutional and an injunction against Johnson prohibiting her from enforcing the state's current policy.

The June 10 deposition was limited to three hours and was closed to the press.


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