Transgender Tennessee woman sues over state's refusal to change the sex designation on her license

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A transgender Tennessee woman sued the state's Department of Safety and Homeland Security on Tuesday after officials refused to change the sex on her driver's license to match her gender identity.

The lawsuit was filed in Davidson County Chancery Court in Nashville under the pseudonym Jane Doe by the American Civil Liberties Union. It claims the department acted illegally by updating its policies without following the state's Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, which requires public notice and public comment before an administrative rule is adopted.

The department previously permitted a change to the sex designator on a Tennessee driver's license with a statement from a doctor that “necessary medical procedures to accomplish the change in gender are complete,” according to the lawsuit.

That policy changed after the legislature passed a law last year defining “sex” throughout Tennessee code as a person's “immutable biological sex as determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth.”

Shortly after the law went into effect, the department issued the new guidelines to employees on proof of identity. However, the department did not officially update the old rule or repeal it, according to the lawsuit.

Doe says she was diagnosed with gender dysphoria in 2022 and currently receives hormone therapy. She tried to change the sex designation on her driver's license in February, but she was turned away. She has a passport card that identifies her as female and uses that for identification wherever possible, but sometimes she still has to show her driver's license with the male sex designation, according to the lawsuit.

“Ms. Doe is forced to disclose her transgender status whenever she shows a third-party her drivers license," the lawsuit states, adding that "she fears discrimination, harassment and violence based on her status as a transgender woman.”

The lawsuit says the new policy violates Doe's constitutional rights to privacy, free speech, equal protection and due process and asks the judge to issue a ruling to that effect. It also asks the court to declare that the new policy is void because it violates the Tennessee Uniform Procedures Act and to reverse the denial of Doe's sex designation change on her license.

A spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Wes Moster, said in an email that the department does not comment on pending litigation. He referred questions to the state Attorney General's Office, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Tuesday.