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Arkansas Lawmakers Want to Roll Back Transgender-Friendly License Policy

“This proposed policy seeks to erase the existence of non-binary and intersex Arkansans,” the ACLU of Arkansas said.

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks with reporters after casting her vote on Super Tuesday at Dunbar Recreation Center on March 5, 2024, in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Arkansas lawmakers have proposed a rule that would hinder transgender people’s access to gender-neutral markers on their driver’s licenses and make it more difficult for trans people to change the gender markers on their licenses at all.

“This policy is just common sense. Only women give birth, men shouldn’t play women’s sports, and there are only two genders. As long as I’m Governor, Arkansas state government will not endorse nonsense,” far right Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) said in a statement.

The proposed rule revokes the Department of Finance and Administration’s (DFA) current administrative practice, which enables license holders to modify their gender “without any verifiable information,” according to the agency announcement. Instead, the proposed regulation would force transgender people to first amend their birth certificate, a process in Arkansas that mandates proof of sex reassignment surgery, before being able to change the gender marker on their license.

“This proposed policy seeks to erase the existence of non-binary and intersex Arkansans by denying them identity documents that reflect their true selves, forcing them into categories that do not represent their identities,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas said in a statement.

Prior to this proposed emergency rule, Arkansas was one of 22 states where residents could designate M, F or X on their driver’s license, according to the Movement Advancement Project (MAP). The state utilized a straightforward form and did not mandate provider certification for trans people to change the gender marker on their license. The new proposal would put Arkansas in the company of other anti-trans states like Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, which also require evidence of surgery, a court order, or an amended birth certificate in order for someone to change the gender marker on their license.

“Arkansas will require a changed [birth certificate] marker ([requires] surgery) to change your DL marker starting April 1st. If you’re nonbinary they’ll change your X forcefully and mail you a letter harassing you about it,” Corinne Green, a board of directors’ member for the National Harm Reduction Coalition, said on social media. “Fucking insane [fascist] shit.”

The agency did not hold a public hearing for the proposed emergency rule, despite recognizing that the rule was “expected to be controversial,” according to a questionnaire for filing proposed rules with the Arkansas legislative council.

In a letter to the director of ALR earlier this month, Jim Hudson, secretary of the DFA , wrote that the “Department has determined that an emergency rule is necessary in order to administer the Office’s responsibilities under Ark. Code Ann. § 27-16-1104(3), which requires that a driver’s license or identification card issued by the Office contain the person’s gender.”

However, transgender advocates say that changing the administrative rules actually clashes with existing law.

“Removing non-binary gender markers directly conflicts with the purpose of this rule,” LGBTQ legislative researcher and activist Allison Chapman told Truthout. “United States passports already allow for X gender markers, and by removing that as an option, they are creating a discrepancy between identification documents which is the supposed purpose of this rule.”

The emergency rule is currently under review by the Arkansas Bureau of Legislative Research’s (ALR) Executive Subcommittee. If approved, the rule will go into effect on April 1.

“This rule clearly exists just to attack and make the lives of trans and non-binary people more difficult,” Chapman said.

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