Transgender Floridians banned from changing gender on driver’s licenses, risk having them revoked

Transgender people in Florida are now barred from changing the gender listed on their driver’s licenses, and must now use the gender assigned at birth.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLDHSMV) issued a memo late last week on January 26 informing county tax collectors, the primary venues for license issuance, about the policy shift.

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The memo, released by Robert Kynoch, the deputy executive director of FLDHSMV, highlighted that any deviation from one’s sex assigned at birth would be considered “misrepresenting” gender, constituting “criminal and civil” fraud, and subjects an offender to criminal and civil penalties, including cancellation, suspension, or revocation of his or her driver’s license.

Kynoch explained that historically and commonly, the term “gender” has been used as a synonym for “sex,” which is determined by innate and immutable biological and genetic characteristics. The term does not refer to a person’s internal sense of their gender role or identification.

Before this policy change, transgender people could change the gender listed on their driver’s licenses upon providing a physician’s certified letter affirming their engagement in clinical treatment for gender transition, as outlined by the National Center for Transgender Equality.

In 2018, the Florida state agency adopted a policy that permitted individuals to modify the genetic markers on their licenses by submitting signed statements from physicians or court orders that authenticated gender changes. The policy mandated that workers treat those who sought such changes “with respect.” In 2021, the process was extended to include advanced practice registered nurses who could now attest to the gender changes.

Gender-affirming health care for transgender individuals is supported by most major accredited medical organizations.

The released statement goes into detail on the new change, stating: “A driver’s license is an identification document and, as such, serves a critical role in assisting public and private entities in correctly establishing the identity of a person presenting the license. Permitting an individual to alter his or her license to reflect an internal sense of gender role or identity, which is neither immutable nor objectively verifiable, undermines the purpose of an identification record and can frustrate the state’s ability to enforce its laws.”

READ: ‘What is a Woman Act:’ Florida state Rep. files bill requiring ‘biological sex at birth’ on ID cards

IR08 Gender Requirements 1.26.24 Memo by ActionNewsJax on Scribd

Reacting strongly to the announcement, Democratic lawmakers in Florida condemned the move as discriminatory and regressive.

State Representative Anna Eskamani from Orlando chastised the decision, labeling it as “shameful.”

“This is another gross example of how every state agency has been weaponized to attack trans people,” Eskamani said. “Instead of addressing the property insurance crisis, this is what our state is doing.”

Similarly, Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried denounced the policy alteration, describing it as “disgusting” and asserting that it amounted to the erasure and criminalization of transgender people.

“We’ve seen state agencies continually weaponized under Ron DeSantis, and this rule change at DHSMV serves the same purpose as the rest — allowing right-wing extremists to get the wildly unpopular policies they want without having to go on the record as voting for them,” Fried said.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Republican lawmakers have targeted transgender rights, including banning gender-affirming care for minors, prohibiting discussion of personal pronouns in schools, and requiring people to use specific bathrooms.

The license controversy comes amidst a broader political backdrop, with Florida Republican legislators in the state advocating for a bill mandating driver’s licenses to display the carrier’s sex assigned at birth rather than their gender identity, as part of the “What is a Woman Act

Proposed Florida bill HB 1639 would similarly require that sex, not gender, be listed on state IDs.

RELATED: LGBTQ+ advocates denounce new Florida bill nicknamed, ‘What is a woman’ by sponsor

According to a 2022 report published by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, at least 94,900 adults identify as transgender in Florida, while 16,200 people aged between 13 and 17 identify as transgender in the state.

The FLDHSMV defended its decision to reportedly align policies with statutory law, ensure the security and reliability of government-issued credentials, and underline the importance of accurate identification records and adhering to established legal frameworks.

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