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Transgender Arkansas Residents Sue Over New Driver’s License, Identification Rules

— May 3, 2024

Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union say that, in announcing a change that would remove the “X” gender designation from Arkansas driver’s licenses, the state failed to adhere to its own administrative rules.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit on behalf of several transgender and non-binary Arkansas residents who claim that a recent decision to remove the “X” gender designation on driver’s licenses violates state administrative rules.

According to The Associated Press, the complaint asks a Pulaski County judge to prohibit the state from reversing the practice of allowing Arkansas motorists to have “X” displayed in place of “Male” or “Female” on their driver’s licenses and identification cards.

The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, which has permitted the “X” designation since 2010, announced the change last month.

The change, adds The Associated Press, was then approved by a legislative panel.

However, in its complaint, the ACLU of Arkansas claims that the state failed to adhere to its own procedures for amending public-interest rules.

The Arkansas Administrative Procedure Act, for instance, requires a 30-day public notice and comment period for policy changes, barring those that present an “imminent peril to public health, safety, or welfare.”

LGBTQ flag. Image via Quote Catalog, Flickr, CC BY 2.0, no changes.

John Williams, the legal director of the ACLU of Arkansas, said that the state has failed to establish how giving motorists the option to choose “X” as a gender designation—a practice in place since 2010—constitutes an emergency.

“There is no ‘imminent peril’ created by recognizing and respecting a person’s affirmed gender identity, yet the DFA’s emergency rule has precipitated a true crisis for affected Arkansans,” Williams said in a statement. “This rule is not safeguarding Arkansans; it’s compromising their safety, their mental health, and their ability to participate fully in society.”

“The DFA has failed to demonstrate any urgent threat to public health or safety that justifies this sudden and restrictive change in policy,” Williams said. “Instead, their actions have created a real and immediate danger to the wellbeing of our plaintiffs and other transgender, nonbinary, and intersex people, for whom accurate identification is not just a matter of dignity, but of personal security.”

The lawsuit makes a somewhat similar argument when describing how the policy change could harm the plaintiff’s personal interests and well-being.

“By forcing plaintiffs to adopt gender markers that do not cohere to their own identities, the rule imposes a dignitary harm—one they are forced to carry around with them and relive every time they use their identification,” the lawsuit alleges. “The emergency rules causes plaintiffs to suffer the stress and anxiety inherent in being told by the state that a core element of their being is not worth recognizing.”

Arkansas officials, including Attorney General Griffin, have said that they are actively reviewing the lawsuit and look forward to “vigorously” defending the Department of Finance and Administration in court.

“DFA issues licenses and IDs based on objective information,” Department of Finance and Administration Secretary Jim Hudson said in a statement.

“Our emergency rule was adopted by DFA and the General Assembly to ensure the safety of our citizens and the stakeholders who rely on the license and IDs we issue,” Hudson said. “DFA is implementing this policy in a manner that is respectful to all. We intend to vigorously defend this policy in court.”


ACLU files lawsuit to restore gender-neutral drivers license designations in state

Lawsuit filed over Arkansas’ ban on gender-neutral driver’s license policy

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