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DFA hears public comment on gender-neutral ID rule

The Arkansas Revenue Report for December shows higher-than-average gains in taxes and revenue.
David Monteith
Little Rock Public Radio
The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration held public comment on licenses and state IDs.

On Friday, officials with the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration heard public comment on a rule change regarding driver's licenses and state IDs.

Under the gender section on their license or state ID, Arkansans were previously able to put an “X” instead of “M” or “F.” Arkansans could also change their gender marker on their license or state ID to reflect the gender with which they identify. DFA says the option was only used in about 500 cases.

In March, the department got legislative approval to stop the practice. DFA Secretary Jim Hudson told lawmakers he did not know of anyone who had been harmed by the policy. But, he said the rule change was necessary to prevent “potential harm.”

DFA will still allow people to change their gender marker on their license after they get it legally changed on their birth certificate. In Arkansas, this can be a long process requiring the person to go through gender-affirming surgery before obtaining a court order.

An ongoing lawsuit is underway from the American Civil Liberties Union, which says the rule change is unnecessary and discriminatory. This week, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Patricia James struck down the rule, saying it did not constitute an emergency serious enough to warrant the change.

DFA allowed public comment on the rule change at a meeting on Friday. During the hearing, several transgender and non-binary Arkansans testified about how the rule change would harm them.

Jessica Disney, a transgender woman, became emotional at the hearing explaining how the process of legally changing her gender is not feasible. She says the required surgeries are too expensive and that she can not take time off from work to recover.

“Through no fault of my own, I am not able to amend my birth certificate in the state of Arkansas so I may continue to have the correct marker on my ID,” she said.

Hazel Pleskac said trying to get documents to match her gender has been a “bureaucratic nightmare.”

“I have dealt with so many issues from my gender marker,” she said.

Hannah Grimmett, who had an “X” on their ID before it expired, called the rule “useless” and said it hurts more people than it helps.

“When I first got my drivers license it was as simple as saying 'hello, can you please change this to an ‘X’? Thank you,'” Grimmett said. “I can't put an ‘X’ on my birth certificate no matter what I do.”

Paul Gehring, DFA assistant commissioner of revenue policy and legal, said they will move forward with the proposed rule putting it on the agenda for the general assembly.

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.
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