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Judge Permits ACLU Lawsuit Challenging Michigan's ID Policy to Move Forward

DETROIT—A federal judge today refused to dismiss an ACLU lawsuit challenging a state policy that makes it nearly impossible for transgender Michiganders to change gender markers on their driver's licenses and state IDs.

“We are very pleased that our case will move forward,” said Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan’s LGBT Project. “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.”

U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds held that "plaintiffs have raised a cognizable privacy claim" in her decision denying Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s motion to have the lawsuit dismissed.

"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,'" wrote Edmunds.

Under Michigan's current ID policy, which Johnson implemented in 2011, the state refuses to change the gender on state-issued ID unless the person produces an amended birth certificate showing the correct gender. The policy has created significant problems for Michigan's transgender community.

In order 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 to pay for.  

“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.

The plaintiffs are represented by Kaplan; John Knight from the ACLU’s LGBT Project; Dan Korobkin and Michael J. Steinberg, also from the ACLU of Michigan; and Steven Gilford, Michael Derksen and Jacki Anderson from the Chicago office of Proskauer Rose LLP.

Read Edmunds' complete decision denying the state's motion to dismiss.

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.

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