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ACLU response to Hawaii County’s statement regarding not issuing a driver’s license to a woman with headscarf


“The County’s response is misleading. It seeks to justify its violations of the Constitution by claiming they were unaware of the Department of Homeland Security’s guidance on the REAL ID Act and religious accommodation – which were in fact published on the DHS website as early as 2016. The County of Hawaii’s discriminatory enforcement of the REAL ID Act’s photo requirements against Muslim women and women wearing headscarves—but not against people whose hair naturally covers their ears—violates the First Amendment to the Constitution regardless of County officials’ flawed understanding of what “ear-to-ear” means.

Finally, when Ms. O’Dell states that as soon as the County became aware of the correct interpretation of the DHS rules, it issued the license, she neglects to mention that it was Ms. Tobosa herself who sent her the link to the DHS’s guidance on April 18, 2018, after which Ms. O’Dell, without explanation, suddenly reversed course that same day and told Ms. Tobosa that her application would be granted. It is only thanks to Ms. Tobosa’s diligence and persistence that the County’s longstanding misinterpretation and unconstitutional application of what the REAL ID Act requires was brought to light.

Regardless of how this profound misinterpretation of the REAL ID Act arose, we are glad that the County is now acknowledging this error, and are hopeful that it will fully comply with our demand letter and treat all who enter the DMV with respect and equality.”

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