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Idaho drops surgery requirement to change sex on driver's license

By Laura Zuckerman

SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - Idaho officials on Tuesday dropped a requirement that transgender residents show proof of surgery to alter sex designation on their driver's licenses, bringing the state in line with policies in most other parts of the country.

The change, which comes after a complaint by the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, requires a court order or sworn statement from a doctor for those seeking to revise their gender on Idaho driver's licenses.

It repeals a 2011 rule that required proof of surgical gender reassignment before licenses could be modified.

The ACLU of Idaho had complained to the state transportation agency about its decision to revoke the license of a transgender woman and deny another's application because neither had undergone sex-change surgery.

In Idaho, about six applicants a year request changing the sex designation on their licenses, officials said.

In discussions that opened earlier this year, the ACLU suggested to the Idaho Transportation Department that it was violating privacy and other rights by forcing applicants to disclose personal medical information and by requiring surgery as a prerequisite for establishing gender identity.

"From our standpoint, surgical reassignment is not necessary to operate a motor vehicle on the highway," said Monica Hopkins, head of the ACLU of Idaho.

Transportation Department spokesman Jeff Stratten said the agency's review showed many other U.S. states require only a court order or doctor's note and not proof of surgical reassignment to adjust gender designations on driver's licenses.

"We have not created a new class of license. We've just aligned ourselves with most motor vehicle divisions across the country," he said.

Vincent Paolo Villano, spokesman for the National Center for Transgender Equality, said just a fraction of transgender people undergo surgery and that it can be expensive and difficult to access and is sometimes not recommended for health reasons.

"Regardless, decisions like that should be between a medical provider and an individual," he said. "It becomes an issue for us when we have states trying to legislate what kinds of procedures people should get in order to count as a person."

A review this year by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that the states that require medical alteration of gender to modify driver's licenses include Georgia, South Dakota and Wyoming.

(Additional reporting by Steve Gorman, Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Lisa Shumaker)

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