TLDEF Urges Maryland Gov. to Maintain Current Policy On Gender Markers

As noted in the TransEquality blog, the Maryland Vehicle Administration is currently considering an update to their policy regarding changing the gender marker on a driver’s license effective January 1, 2010.

In recent years, many states such as Massachusetts, New Jersey, Colorado, Ohio and the District of Columbia have updated their policies to ensure transgender people can obtain accurate driver's licenses. But while most states are moving in the right direction, Maryland is set to take a big step in the wrong direction.

TLDEF has joined with a coalition of national and Maryland-based organizations to urge Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley to reconsider this proposed update and to maintain Maryland's current policy regarding driver's license gender markers.  A copy of the letter we submitted to the Governor follows:

Martin O’Malley, Governor
Office of the Governor of Maryland
100 State Circle
Annapolis, Maryland 21401-1925

December 15, 2009

Dear Governor O’Malley,

We are deeply concerned that the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) is considering moving backwards in policy related to obtaining accurate identification for transgender Marylanders. If adopted, the proposed MVA policy for gender designation changes would move Maryland from having a policy that generally works to provide transgender people accurate identification (albeit not an ideal policy), to becoming one of the worst states in the country, with a policy matched only in regressiveness by those in Kentucky, Montana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas.

This move is at odds with current trends in state licensing policies. The proposed policy would require transgender Marylanders to provide a changed birth certificate first. If born in Maryland, they would need to hire an attorney and appear in court to establish specific, intimate and highly personal facts concerning their medical treatment in order to obtain a corrected gender designation on a driver’s license or state identification card. Generally speaking, in most states including Maryland, sex reassignment surgery is required to change one’s birth certificate. And, in most states, a transgender person would similarly have to hire an attorney to go to court to achieve this change. Furthermore, this will be especially burdensome for individuals born outside Maryland, many of whom will be required to file a legal action in a court thousands of miles away. Compliance will be impossible for individuals born in states such as Ohio, Tennessee and Idaho, which refuse to provide corrected birth certificates for transgender people under all circumstances.

The current MVA policy allows people who are living full-time in their new gender, yet who have not yet had relevant surgeries but intend/desire to, to have a provisional gender marker change. A permanent gender marker change is granted when proof of surgery is provided. This policy has been in place for several years, and there is no indication that any problem has arisen with its administration. This policy is slightly more restrictive than current policies in the District of Columbia, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and most recently Ohio. Each of those jurisdictions allow gender-marker change upon living full-time in a person’s new gender and people are able to get an updated ID with even a less burdensome showing than the current Maryland policy requires (there is no requirement that a person has to intend/desire relevant surgeries). These policies meet the needs of license-holders, law enforcement and other government agencies, are fully compliant with the REAL ID Act, and represent the overwhelming trend in current state policies today.

We are particularly troubled by this proposed change in policy because of the potentially devastating effect it would have for transgender people in every aspect of daily life. Recent national survey research conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force indicates that this policy would result in the overwhelming majority of transgender people having identification that is inconsistent with their appearance. Under the proposed MVA policy, more than 80% of transgender women would be listed as “men” on their licenses, and as many as 95% of transgender men would be listed as “women.” Having the wrong gender on one’s license “outs” transgender people in any situation where they need to show a license— in bars and restaurants, during routine traffic stops, and while filling out forms for employers. This violates the privacy of transgender people and puts them at risk for discrimination and bias-motivated harassment and violence. Furthermore, having the wrong gender on a person’s license needlessly complicates the work of law enforcement and other agencies that need to quickly and accurately identify individuals.

The current policy meets the State’s need for accurate identification and protects Maryland citizens’ privacy and safety and complies with the REAL ID Act. We hope you will take appropriate and prompt action to ensure that MVA retains its current policy regarding gender designation changes.


Morgan Meneses-Sheets, Executive Director
Equality Maryland

Cindy Boersma, Legislative Director
ACLU of Maryland

Matt Coles, LGBT Rights Project Director
ACLU (National)

Emily Hecht, Senior Legislative Counsel
Family Equality Counsel

Sarah Warbelow, State Legislative Director
Human Rights Campaign

Shannon Minter, Legal Director
National Center for Lesbian Rights

Harper Jean Tobin, Policy Counsel
National Center for Transgender Equality

Rebecca Fox, Executive Director
National Coalition for LGBT Health

Lisa Mottet, Transgender Civil Rights Project Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Alice Kennedy, President
Stonewall Democrats of Central Maryland

Michael Mitchell, Executive Director
Stonewall Democrats (National)

Michael Silverman, Executive Director
Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund