Next Steps in ACLU Michigan's Love v. Johnson Lawsuit

POST BY Jay Kaplan Nancy Katz & Margo Dichtelmiller LGBT Legal Project Staff Attorney

Our case challenging the Secretary of State's policy on changing ID gender markers is moving forward.

Federal Judge Nancy Edmunds found that the ACLU of Michigan has raised a legitimate privacy claim regarding the Secretary of State's ID policy, which makes it nearly impossible for transgender people in Michigan to obtain identity documents that accurately reflect their gender identity and gender expression. To quote, Judge Edmunds: “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.”

Read Judge Nancy Edmunds' full opinion denying the state's motion to dismiss.

Certainly, statistics support this. A survey of transgender discrimination conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force found that in every day interactions, when having to present inaccurate identity documents, 40 percent of transgender people report being harassed, 15 percent report being asked to leave a place of public accommodation, and 3 percent report being attacked or assaulted. 

We are very gratified that the court understands the seriousness of the nature of this case and the impact that Michigan’s policy has on the transgender community. So, what happens next? 

Well, the Secretary of State at any time unilaterally could rescind this severely flawed and unfair gender change policy. Barring that, our case will now proceed as planned to trial. The court will set a date for trial and in the meantime, we will work on the discovery portion of our case.

Discovery is a legal term that encompasses all the gathering of information and evidence to support our claim that Michigan’s policy is unconstitutional. We will be requesting documents from the Secretary of State. And we will be asking for information in the form of interrogatories, which is a list of questions that are posed to the other party that they are obligated to answer.

We will also conduct depositions, where parties relevant to our case will be questioned under oath outside of the court, in preparation for our hearing. We will then use all this information gathered to prepare for trial and to support the claims of discrimination we have made in our complaint. The Secretary of State may also be sending us interrogatories, requesting information and documents, as well as requesting depositions of our plaintiffs. So as you can see, as important as a trial or hearing is, the preparation that goes into the trial, through the discovery process is equally important.

Read the ACLU of Michigan's complete legal complaint challenging the Secretary of State's ID policy.

Having a hearing will not only allow us to prove our legal claims, but also serve an important educational function for the public to understand what it means to be transgender and why having correct gender identity documents is so integral to the well-being and safety of transgender people. We have made it through this first hurdle with the court agreeing that our case deserves a hearing, which means our journey towards getting this unfair policy rescinded takes a step forward!

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