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In Arkansas, no more ‘X’ instead of ‘M’ or ‘F’ on driver’s licenses

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(The Center Square) – Arkansans can no longer mark “X” instead of “M” or “F” on driver’s licenses forms, the state Legislative Council decided on Friday.

The rule passed as an emergency measure and goes into effect immediately. Some lawmakers questioned why the rule is considered an emergency during the meeting and earlier at a Thursday subcommittee meeting.

Jim Hudson, secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration, said the rule was approved as policy in 2014 and did not go before the Legislature. He said no one has complained, but the issue could affect law enforcement.

“I will tell you that as we were looking at this issue I’ve had conversations with the law enforcement community just to ask if they were even aware of this existing policy by DFA and they were not even aware of it,” Hudson said. “So in the sense of it is a document that law enforcement relies upon and if law enforcement cannot have confidence that it is not a validly issued document that gives them information about the person that they are encountering, I do believe that is a public safety issue.”

Sen. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock, said he did not believe the emergency clause was needed because there was no imminent peril to the state’s public health, safety or welfare.

“The role of this body today is to remove the opportunity for the public to comment on a permanent rule,” Tucker said. “At least when we pass a law with an emergency clause in session, the public has the opportunity to comment in a committee hearing. But they don’t have that opportunity when we pass an emergency rule.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas said the policy seeks to “erase the existence of nonbinary and intersex Arkansans by denying them identity documents that reflect their true selves, forcing them into categories that do not represent their identities.”

“The ability to use a gender-neutral marker, such as ‘X,’ is essential for the safety and recognition of nonbinary and intersex individuals – a stance supported by 22 states, the District of Columbia, and federal regulations regarding passports and other documents,’ the ACLU said.

The rule passed the committee by a voice vote, with some members voting “no.”

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she supports the change.

“This policy is just common sense,” Sanders said. “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.”

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