Alabama’s policy requiring that transgender people show proof of sex reassignment surgery in order to change the sex designation on their driver’s license was found to be unconstitutional, courts ruled Friday.
Under the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s (ALEA) Policy Order 63, transgender individuals could only get a license that accurately reflected their gender after they had sex reassignment surgery, “regardless of whether the surgery is necessary, desired, safe, or within the financial means of the individual,” said the complaint. The ALEA argued that this rule would ensure consistency in state records and provide a paper trail that could explain discrepancies between the sex listed on a person’s birth certificate and driver’s license. But the court held that “‘administrative ease and convenience’ is not a sufficiently important justification for a state policy based on sex.”
Forcing transgender individuals to present a license with a sex designation that does not match the way they present creates the potential for harassment. US District Court Judge Mayron Thompson cited statistics of violence related to inaccurate driver’s licenses:
One-quarter of all transgender people who carry identification documents that do not match their gender have been harassed after showing these documents. One in six has been denied services and more than half have faced harassment or assault from a law enforcement officer who learned they were transgender.
Thompson found the policy violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it “treats people differently based on the nature of their genitalia, classifying them by sex.” Laws that separate people based on protected categories are subject to a higher standard of scrutiny, and the government must provide legitimate justifications as to why that law was necessary.