JUNEAU -- New regulations are set to take effect in Alaska that will allow transgender drivers to change the sex designation on their drivers' licenses.
Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state on behalf of a transgender woman. The lawsuit alleged the woman, identified only as K.L., was denied a driver's license listing her gender as female unless she provided proof she'd undergone a sex change operation. ACLU went to court to appeal an administrative ruling in the case.
Earlier this year, in March, Superior Court Judge Michael Spann ordered the Division of Motor Vehicles to adopt a new regulation. He did not suggest the form or scope of the regulation but advised DMV to take into consideration the "constitutional implications" that such a regulation might have on the right to privacy and protection of "sensitive personal information." He allowed 180 days for the state to comply.
ACLU worked with the state in crafting the regulation, which underwent public comment. The regulation will still require proof for the change in sex designation but in the form of a licensed provider certifying he or she has been involved in the person's case and expects the change in description to be permanent.
Whitney Brewster, director of the Division of Motor Vehicles, said Thursday that hopefully this will be a fairly easy process to follow. The division plans to provide a form that will need to be filled out.
The regulations take effect Aug. 11. Neither she nor Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of ACLU of Alaska, could say how many people could be affected by the change.
"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," John Knight, a staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, said in a news release. "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."
According to court records, K.L. is a male-to-female transgender person who has lived her life as a woman since September 2009. She officially changed her name and is identified as female on her passport and other documents.
Mittman said he appreciated the work by the state that went into crafting a regulation "that recognizes the important and legitimate needs of transgender Alaskans."