An employee of the Department of Motor Vehicles in San Francisco was placed on administrative leave Friday after allegations surfaced that he sent a letter condemning a transgender woman who was registering for a sex change.
Amber Yust, 23, filed a damage claim on Thursday against the California DMV in response to the employee’s alleged behavior.
The ordeal began in October when Yust visited the DMV office at 1377 Fell St. to change her driver’s license to reflect her transitioned gender identity, Yust said.
She was turned away by a DMV employee – identified by Yust’s lawyers as Thomas Demartini – because he said there was a “records mismatch” between her identity on government record and the information she wished to put on her new driver’s license, Yust said.
Yust went back to the Social Security office for proof that her name change had been made official. She provided this proof when she returned to the DMV office on Oct. 21, and Demartini “reluctantly” processed the license alterations, Yust said.
Four days later, Yust received a letter at her home from Demartini that was dated Oct. 22, the day after he processed the changes to her DMV record.
The one-page document lists biblical references that imply homosexuality and gender transitions are mortal sins. In the letter, Demartini apparently begs Yust not to complete her gender transition.
“Jesus clearly prohibits gender change operations,” Demartini wrote. “If an operation like this is the reason for changing one’s name, then one has made a very evil decision.”
Later the same day, a DVD entitled “Death and the Journey Into Hell” and a religious pamphlet – which are both dispersed by the New York-based My Holy Family Monastery – were sent to Yust, she said.
The incident with Yust isn’t the first time Demartini has been accused of discriminating against transgender individuals, according to Christopher Dolan, one of the attorneys representing Yust.
Last year he was accused of denying a driver’s license name change to a transgender woman, Dolan said. The woman received apologies from the state DMV, but Demartini was not fired.
“This guy was kept on the payroll and escalated his behavior by sending (Amber Yust) hate mail and passing out her information to this fundamentalist group telling her to die and burn in hell,” Dolan said.
The Most Holy Family Monastery – believed to have been given Yust’s information by Demartini – said they have no idea who Yust or Demartini are and insist they had no hand in mailing the pamphlet and DVD Yust received.
“It sounds like somebody was just giving someone one of our DVDs,” said a nun at the church who declined to give her name.
The nun said that she had no record of Yust’s name or address in the church’s mailing records and that the most recent mass mailing included a different DVD than the one Yust received.
The DMV could not confirm the employee’s identity as Thomas Demartini, but a DMV spokesman said the employee accused of sending the letter has been placed on administrative leave.
“The alleged actions of this DMV employee are expressly prohibited by department policy. We do not condone or tolerate anybody advocating their personal beliefs,” DMV Deputy Director of Public Affairs Mike Marando said.
Marando said Demartini and Yust’s case is being viewed “as an isolated incident,” and that the department is prepared to take whatever action is necessary to prevent such information leaks and agenda-pushing in the future.
The damage claim filed on Thursday is the first step in bringing a lawsuit against a government agency accused of wrongdoing, Dolan said.
The DMV has 45 days to respond to the complaint.
Yust is seeking damages for emotional distress, and a court-ordered injunction forcing the DMV to ensure such information leaks never take place again.
She said the point of her case is that a government employee illegally used confidential information to commit harassment on the basis of personal beliefs.
“This seems like something bigger than transgender individuals,” Yust said. “It’s a privacy matter. I wouldn’t want someone like that working in a government institution for anyone,” she said.
Kyveli Diener, Bay City News