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Opponents say eliminating “X” as gender choice could cause harm

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(The Center Square) – A public hearing on a new rule that would require Arkansas residents to identify as male or female on their driver’s licenses drew opponents who said the policy could be harmful.

The Arkansas Legislative Council approved an emergency rule in March that banned using “X” as a gender. The rule went into effect immediately, changing a policy that had been in place since 2014. The policy did not go before the Legislature at the time, Jim Hudson, secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration.

The legislative council will consider making the rule permanent, likely at a meeting in August, said Paul Gehring, assistant revenue commissioner for DFA, after Friday’s hearing.

Hudson said in March the rule is a safety issue for 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.”

Opponents said it puts them at risk.

“If I should be in an emergency situation, unable to respond to medical professionals who need the best information possible to rule out issues and determine my method of treatment, if my ID matched my birth certificate, it would provide them with information that is incorrect and could cause them to misdiagnose or implement treatment that could cause lasting harm to my body,” said Jessica Disney, a transgender woman.

The change is confusing, some said.

“This rule change is increasing complexity needlessly when we have a government that is arguing for freedom and for liberty and that these kinds of rule changes that are designed to impact a very small portion of the population with a negative impact as we have seen in terms of travel and in terms of safety is puzzling to me,” said Pria Ruth Williams in testimony. “There has been no evidence that the previous rules and the previous ability to make these decisions has had a negative impact on any Arkansans.”

No one spoke in favor of the change.

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