The Journal Gazette
Friday, September 27, 2019 1:00 am

BMV plans Nov. 15 hearing on gender rule

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles is trying again to formally change its rules regarding gender on driver's licenses and ID cards.

After Attorney General Curtis Hill's office objected to a recent proposal, the BMV has filed a notice of intent for a new one and set a public hearing for Nov. 15.

The full language of the new proposed rule will be made public in mid-October, according to BMV officials.

The notice of intent filed Monday says only that it is about “procedures for amending gender information on a driver's license or identification card.”

The previous rule said either a birth certificate or a special Indiana State Department of Health form is needed to change gender on licenses and IDs. It is essentially the same policy that exists now except it will be a health department form instead of the motor vehicle agency form.

The rule would have essentially formalized a procedure the BMV has used since 2009 to change genders from male to female and female to male. It requires a physician's statement. 

But earlier this year the agency was ordered by a court in two cases to offer a nonbinary X option as well. An X is for Hoosiers who don't identify as male or female.

That led the BMV to also use the doctor's statement for X changes.

BMV spokeswoman Susan Guyer said while the new rule goes through the legal process, the BMV will continue to process male-to-female and female-to-male gender modifications with a doctor's statement.

But “the BMV will not process any additional X applications until the rule change is complete. Once the rulemaking is complete, the State Department of Health will work with applicants and walk them through the process of receiving an amended birth certificate or the necessary state form should the applicant not be a native Hoosier. Once the applicant receives one of those two documents, they will come to the BMV and we will process the credential application.”

The State Department of Health also had previously told The Journal Gazette that it would begin accepting the new doctor's form to change birth certificates. This is a significant step because currently the only way to amend a birth certificate is through a long and costly court process.

But health department spokeswoman Greta Sanderson said “because the goal is to ensure that both agencies' processes are aligned, ISDH will not be changing its process until the BMV rule is completed.”

After the public hearing, the BMV commissioner will sign the rule, which is then sent to the attorney general for review. He has 45 days to do so. Assuming the rule is signed by the attorney general in early January it will be sent to the governor and the Indiana Register for final review for style, not substance. The rule becomes effective roughly one month after it is signed by the governor.

Ultimately, though, lawmakers could interrupt that process by filing legislation in January when the session begins. Many Christian conservatives believe changing gender shouldn't be an option at all.

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