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Transgender woman settles suit against San Francisco DMV

SAN FRANCISCO -- Transgender woman Amber Yust of San Francisco has settled her privacy and civil rights lawsuit with the San Francisco Department of Motor Vehicles.

In October 2010, a DMV employee, who had a known history of denying equal service to transgender customers, retained Yust's personal information through his employment at the DMV. The employee then used the information to send her materials condemning her transgender status, and calling for homosexuals to be "put to death."

Yust, through her attorneys Chris Dolan and the Transgender Law Center, filed a lawsuit in December 2010 against the DMV, alleging violating of her rights under the California Information Practices Act and Unruh Civil Rights Act. Yust brought similar claims against the DMV employee, who voluntarily resigned from his position with the DMV shortly after the incident.

The matter resolved with the State of California for $40,000, and with the former DMV employee for $15,000. As a part of the settlement, the DMV agreed to work with the Transgender Law Center in an effort to incorporate transgender sensitivity into its ongoing employee training.

"This suit affirms the right of all people to equal access to government services, regardless of their orientation or decision to make a transition to live life as their full and complete self," Dolan said.

"In the big picture, this suit promotes the privacy rights of all Californians by ensuring that confidential information retained by our government stays confidential."

Kristina Wertz, legal director of the Transgender Law Center, also hailed the settlement.

"All Californians have the right to do something as simple as going to the DMV without fear of harassment and threats of violence," Wertz said. "What happened to Amber reminds us that for transgender people, our state's promise of equal treatment is often unfulfilled. The case serves as a reminder to all businesses that nobody should be treated differently simply because of who they are."

This settlement comes in the wake of another legal milestone for transgender civil rights. The Dolan Law Firm, a prominent leader in LGBT rights, represented Lana Lawless in her suit against the Ladies Professional Golf Association for denying her the right to compete based on her transgender status. Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, the LPGA removed its longstanding "female at birth" requirement, which precluded transgender women from participating in the organization. Lawless' case against the LPGA was resolved to the mutual satisfaction of all parties.

The discrimination that transgender and gender non-conforming people face is life-threatening. It affects their physical and economic security by denying them opportunities in everything from basic health care to gainful employment.