Transgendered Alaskan to Be Able to Change Gender on Drivers Licenses

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Monday July 30, 2012

The lieutenant governor of Alaska has filed a new regulation that would make it easier for transgender citizens to change their gender on their driver's licenses to the sex they desire without undergoing surgery. The American Civil Liberties Union, which was instrumental in alerting the Alaskan government to the need for such a change, issued a statement revealing Juneau's regulation.

Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, a Republican, filed the measure last week, which will go into effect on August 11. The regulation comes after the ACLU and the ACLU of Alaska challenged a requirement that forced transgender drivers to prove they had undergone surgery as a violation of an individual's right to privacy.

"We appreciate the work of the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Lt. Governor's office in crafting a regulation that recognizes the important and legitimate needs of transgender Alaskans," said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Alaska, in a statement. "All Alaskans must be able to obtain a driver's license that accurately reflects their gender and avoids disclosure of sensitive personal information unrelated to their ability to safely drive a motor vehicle. The government should never needlessly intrude into mandating specific medical procedures."

The ALCU filed a challenge on behalf of a transgender woman named K.L. who was initially permitted to change the gender on her driver's license to female. As reported on EDGE, the state reversed itself unless K.L. could provide proof that she had necessary procedures to change her gender.

"I am humbled and grateful for this decision," said K.L. "It is my prayer that this victory will make a difference in the lives of transgender people."

"The previous requirement had nothing to do with accepted medical standards and demonstrated a callous lack of understanding of what it means to be transgender," said John Knight, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. "The government should not be in the business of dictating anyone's medical care, especially when it comes to requiring surgery that may not be available, desired, or medically necessary."

This step in protecting transgender individuals may seem uncommon to many as Alaska is a very conservative state. Currently, gay and lesbian couples are not allowed to marry and the state does not have any anti-discrimination or hate crime laws based on gender identity or sexual orientation.