Florida Updates Gender Identity Policy on Driver’s Licenses

Tallahassee, Florida – In what critics are calling “an ongoing campaign to make Florida uninhabitable and unsafe for transgender individuals,” Governor Ron DeSantis’ administration has quietly reversed a policy that allowed Floridians to obtain driver’s licenses reflecting their gender identity.

The change was outlined in a memo sent by Robert Kynoch, deputy executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, to county tax collectors who process driver’s licenses and state identification cards. The memo argues that allowing individuals to change their gender on licenses and ID cards goes against state law, as gender has historically been understood as a synonym for ‘sex’ based on biological and genetic characteristics that are innate and immutable.

Kynoch’s memo also emphasizes that a driver’s license serves as an identification document, playing a critical role in correctly establishing a person’s identity. Permitting individuals to alter their license to reflect their internal sense of gender role or identity, which is neither objectively verifiable nor immutable, undermines the purpose of an identification record and can hinder the state’s ability to enforce its laws.

Additionally, the memo warns that misrepresenting one’s gender on a driver’s license constitutes fraud and can result in criminal and civil penalties, including license cancellation, suspension, or revocation.

It is worth noting that the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles had previously adopted a policy in 2018 that allowed people to change the genetic markers on their licenses with signed statements from physicians or court orders documenting gender changes. This policy was expanded in 2021 to include advanced practice registered nurses who could attest to gender changes.

However, Kynoch’s recent memo states that the agency has rescinded this policy, as its provisions lack statutory authority.

Simone Chriss, an attorney with Southern Legal Counsel who was involved in crafting the 2018 policy, stated that the recent changes by the DeSantis administration do not appear to affect trans individuals whose licenses have already been altered. She reassured them that there is no mechanism for the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles or the police to suspend or revoke their licenses based on gender identity.

The agency’s decision to reverse the policy comes as state lawmakers consider measures that propose changing the use of “gender” on licenses by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. A bill approved by the House Select Committee on Health Innovation would require licenses to reflect a person’s sex based on their sex chromosomes, naturally occurring sex hormones, and internal and external genitalia present at birth. The bill also includes requirements for insurers who cover gender-affirming care.

This policy reversal is part of a series of steps taken by Republican-controlled states in recent years that target transgender individuals and the broader LGBTQ community.

Critics argue that these efforts aim to legislate or regulate transgender people out of existence. Carlos Guillermo Smith, a senior policy analyst for LGBTQ-advocacy group Equality Florida, described the change as a “devastating development” and expressed his organization’s intention to explore options for fighting back.

Simone Chriss, who is representing plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit challenging Florida’s ban on puberty blockers, hormone replacement therapy, or surgery for transgender minors, sees the driver’s license change as part of an ongoing campaign to make Florida unsafe for transgender individuals.

The DeSantis administration’s memo regarding driver’s licenses has drawn condemnation from trans individuals and their allies. They argue that these policies deny the legal existence of tens of thousands of Floridians and were implemented without public notice or input.

As the controversy unfolds, it remains to be seen how this policy change will impact trans individuals in Florida and the ongoing legal battles surrounding transgender rights in the state.

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Digital journalist Christie Zizo delivers the latest in election coverage from Central Florida and across the nation.

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