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New FL Rule Bans Trans People From Updating Gender Marker on Driver’s Licenses

If upheld, Florida would become the first state to prohibit driver’s license changes under criminal penalty.

People protesting against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida lawmakers that passed anti-LGBTQ laws walk in the Stonewall Pride parade on June 17, 2023, in Wilton Manors, Florida.

According to a letter submitted by an anonymous source on Monday, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has rescinded the policy that allowed transgender individuals to update the gender marker on their driver’s licenses. The letter, written by Deputy Executive Director Dave Kerner, states that gender will be interpreted as “biological sex.” Furthermore, the letter declares that any person “misrepresenting” their gender marker would be guilty of fraud, facing civil and criminal penalties, and revocation of licensure.

The letter, apparently sent out on Jan. 26, asserts that “gender” is synonymous with “biological sex,” and argues that gender identity is “neither immutable nor objectively verifiable.” It suggests that permitting transgender individuals to update their gender markers on their driver’s licenses would “prevent the state from enforcing its laws.” These laws include bans on transgender individuals using the bathroom of their gender identity and laws targeting adult medical care.

The move marks a significant escalation and seems to have been initiated unilaterally by the department. This action is in line with other unilateral measures taken by the executive branch in Florida and other states. These include the Florida Board of Medicine’s ban on transgender care, Governor Glen Youngkin’s directive through the Board of Education to ban transgender bathroom usage in schools, and Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s efforts to target adult transgender care via the rule-making process. However, none of these examples previously involved driver’s licenses. If upheld, Florida would become the first state to prohibit driver’s license changes under criminal penalty for transgender individuals.

The ramifications of this rule could be far-reaching. All transgender individuals in the state with Florida driver’s licenses not aligning with their “biological sex” might immediately be in possession of a fraudulent license. The state could seek to suspend or revoke the licenses of transgender individuals under this policy. Moreover, during traffic stops involving transgender individuals, they could face legal challenges with police officers if the officers believe the driver’s license “misrepresents” their “biological sex.”

Representative Eskamani appeared to confirm that computer systems were no longer accepting gender changes at FLHSMV offices:

This development coincides with the consideration of two bills in Florida that aim to prohibit driver’s license changes through the legislative process: House Bills 1233 and 1639. These bills could require all Floridians to sign “biological sex affidavits” when renewing or updating their driver’s licenses. The policy could be a strategy to deter transgender Floridians, aware of the bills, from quickly updating the gender marker on their driver’s licenses before their passage. Notably, Florida driver’s licenses typically have long expiration periods, often lasting eight years post-issuance.

Under this policy, transgender individuals in Florida could face considerable challenges in daily life. Many have already left the state, and of those remaining, 80% reportedly wish to leave. This policy could instantly criminalize transgender individuals who drive in the state with updated gender markers. It would compel transgender people to disclose their identity in any situation requiring a driver’s license. Additionally, it would provide Florida a means to enforce its bathroom laws, which criminalize transgender individuals for using bathrooms that align with their gender identity in many public spaces.

Florida currently occupies the most dangerous level on the Transgender Legislative Risk Assessment Map, “Do Not Travel.” The state’s oppressive laws have drawn similar travel advisories from the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Florida. Should this policy be enforced, the state’s transgender population will find it even harder to move freely and could come into conflict with law enforcement and criminal penalties just for having documents that match their gender identity. The policy appears to be the latest attempt at putting transgender “eradication,” championed at CPAC, into action within the borders of Florida.

This piece was republished with permission from Erin In The Morning.

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