Who Are You?
June 13, 2008
by Jamie Tyroler
Who Are You?
Proving identity can stymie all sorts, from adoptees to transgender people. Stricter ID laws would make the consequences more dire.
Most people probably give little thought to having an accurate driver’s license, passport or other identity documents. In Missouri, you should be concerned — and this isn’t just an issue affecting transgender people.
In 2006, Missouri tried passing a Voter ID law — a law that would have excluded one of the state Supreme Court justices from voting in elections. This justice, in his 80s, no longer drove and had let his driver’s license expire. Missouri’s proposed Voter ID law would have required photo ID and would not have accepted expired or revoked identification in order to vote. The state Supreme Court overturned this measure, saying it was unconstitutional.
Missouri lawmakers closed their session May 16 without completing action on a proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed election officials to require proof of citizenship from anyone who registers to vote.
Yet the United States Supreme Court ruled April 28 in favor of an Indiana Voter ID law that required voters to present government-issued photo identification. The court ruled, 6-3, in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board that state interests “are both neutral and sufficiently strong to require us to reject petitioners’ facial attack on the statute.”
According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the burden on voters was “minimal and justified.” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in his dissent that “this statute imposes a disproportionate burden upon those without” government-issued photo IDs.
In Missouri, to renew a driver’s license or state ID, residents must provide a certified copy of their birth certificate and any documents that show name changes. For women, that could include marriage licenses and divorce decrees.
These laws do impose a burden — on elderly people, disabled people, people who were adopted, people who were not born in a hospital or whose birth records cannot be found, and transgender people.
Disabled people, as well as the elderly, may let their driver’s licenses expire because they are no longer able to drive. An expired license, as the Voter ID law was proposed, would not have been a valid form of identification. For the elderly, it may be impossible to locate one’s birth certificate — the records may no longer be available for multiple reasons, such as fire, misfiling or the closure of a hospital.
Adoptees’ birth records may have been sealed to protect the names of the parents. There have been reports of people not knowing where they were born or not knowing where to search for their birth certificate.
For transgender people, several factors can effect whether they can secure identity documents that reflect who they are. Some states will not allow alterations of birth certificates. States have various rules about changing documents, and different agencies within a state may have different rules. Some states compare information on identification documents with other agencies, such as Social Security, and those agencies then have their own rules for changing their records, especially when it deals with gender.
Here’s an example of how these different rules can cause havoc with someone’s life. I am not going to name this transgender person, although this is public record. After living as a woman for some time, she filed papers to change her name and gender through the courts. After having the appropriate legal documents showing her new name and gender, she updated her driver’s license and other identification with this information.
Missouri verifies state ID and driver’s license data with Social Security, which requires a document signed by a doctor to verify that some form of surgical procedure has been done. This person has not had any genital surgery, so in Social Security’s eyes, she is still male, despite having a court order to change her gender.
Missouri received notice that there was a problem with the information on her driver’s license because of the difference between her driver’s license and her Social Security records. She then received notice that unless she corrected this discrepancy within 30 days, her driver’s license would be revoked. She then had to have her driver’s license “corrected” to show that she is male. Her name, however, is still a female name.
This person’s driver’s license and Social Security information show her as being male, as does her birth certificate. The only document showing her to be female is a court order that has been ignored by various government agencies. Recently, she tried getting married to her born-female partner. When they applied for a marriage license, this transwoman was arrested for perjury because she was listed as “male” on the license.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri is providing legal assistance.
The Kansas City area seems to be a hotbed of trans people trying to get married or having issues with property rights after they have been married.
There was the case of J’Noel Gardiner, who was married by a Kansas Supreme Court justice. When her husband, Marshall Gardiner, of Leavenworth, passed away without a will, J’Noel was awarded half of his $2.5 million estate. However, Marshall Gardiner’s estranged son, Joseph Gardiner, filed suit saying that the marriage between J’Noel and Marshall Gardiner wasn’t valid because she had once been a man. Joseph Gardiner was able to find this information out with help from a private investigator who looked at Social Security records. J’Noel’s medical records were made public during court hearings to determine how the estate would be settled. After the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in favor of Joseph Gardiner, this was placed before the United States Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case.
A few years ago, there was the case of Sandy Gast who attempted to marry Georgi Somers in Leavenworth. Gast was arrested and made national news. They were united in a civil union in Topeka.
These cases demonstrate the issues that transgender people have in getting identification that reflects the person they are. It also shows that identification issues can have a much greater effect on people, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.