DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – The state of Michigan is being sued over its refusal to change gender identities on driver’s licenses without a new birth certificate.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan is representing six transgender people who no longer recognize their birth gender. But the ACLU says the secretary of state won’t allow them to change their license unless they present an amended birth certificate.

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The ACLU says that’s “difficult if not impossible.” A lawsuit filed Thursday in Detroit federal court asks that Michigan’s policy be declared unconstitutional.

Click here to read the complaint (.pdf format)

“By refusing to provide transgender people with identity documents that match their correct gender identity, the state makes it unimaginably difficult for them to navigate their everyday lives,” Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan LGBT Project, said in a statement.

Under current policy, implemented by Secretary of State Ruth Johnson in 2011, the state refuses to change the gender on a driver’s license or state I.D. unless the person produces an amended birth certificate showing the correct gender. But the ACLU says most transgender people don’t want surgery. Furthermore, some states require a court order before changing the gender on a birth certificate. And three states, including nearby Ohio, where two of the plaintiffs were born, disallow gender changes on birth certificates altogether.

The ALCU says Michigan policy is as arbitrary as it is harmful. The organization said federal policy doesn’t even require surgery to change the gender marker on a U.S. Passport or Social Security records.

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“Transgender individuals are forced to show employers, government officials, grocery store employees, and many others an ID document which conflicts with their gender identity, their appearance and behavior, the gender associated with their name, and the other ways in which they express their gender,” the lawsuit states. “Doing so reveals their transgender status, their transition, and/or their medical condition to all who see the licenses, including complete strangers.”

The lawsuit points to data regarding the high incidence of hate crimes among transgender individuals once their transgender status is revealed.

“For that reason alone…transgender individuals rightly fear adverse and dangerous reactions from persons who see a driver’s license or a state ID card listing a gender that fails to match their gender expression,” the lawsuit states.

Three of the named plaintiffs are Emani Love and Tina Seitz, two transgender women, and Codie Stone, a transgender man. The other three plaintiffs are unnamed.

Secretary of State spokeswoman Gisgie Gendreau says the agency is following Michigan law.

The lawsuit claims Michigan’s current driver’s license policy violates a transgender person’s First Amendment rights, in addition to their right to privacy, right to equal protection, right to interstate travel and right to refuse unwanted medical treatment. It’s seeking only enough money to cover the costs of attorneys and fees, and to deem the current policy unconstitutional.

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