The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, September 11, 2019 1:00 am


License branches

Needless trouble looms for gender designation rule

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill has thrown a wrench into what appears to have been an effort by two other state agencies to clear away a little red tape for transgender individuals seeking to obtain a driver's license. He declined to sign off on an administrative rule change that would formalize the way the Indiana Bureau of Motor vehicles handles applicants' requests to modify their gender on driver's licenses and IDs.

Applicants who have amended their birth certificate to reflect a new gender may present their certificate to the BMV when they apply for a driver's license. But amending a birth certificate involves a court procedure and legal costs. Thus, the BMV also offers applicants a form that can be filled out by their doctor affirming the applicant has been through the treatment required to change his or her gender designation.

As The Journal Gazette's Niki Kelly reported Sunday, a court decision this spring required the bureau to offer an “X” designation in addition to “male” or “female,” which drew the attention of some legislators and apparently led to the bureau's request to formalize its procedure with an administrative rule change. The rule change also specified that the doctors' statements used to verify transgender treatment go through the Indiana State Department of Health, which is after all a more logical place to be handling sensitive medical information from physicians.

Kelly reported Hill's office has informed BMV officials it can't approve the rule change because of “their perception that public notice wasn't sufficient,” according to BMV spokeswoman Susan Guyer. A statement from Hill's office said it is “duty-bound and prepared to work with state agencies” to see the rule-changing requirements are followed.

Now, all of this could be written off as some sort of bureaucratic fever dream, though it should be noted Hill's fastidious application of rule-making requirements may have real-world consequences for some Hoosiers.

In the interim, it's unclear what documentation a license applicant wanting to modify his or her gender will have to provide until the administrative tape is unraveled. It's also unclear how the Indiana State Department of Health's commendable plan to simplify the process for birth certificate modifications will be affected.

If at this point you're thinking, “the state has bigger problems to worry about than whether this particular piece of red tape is wound tightly enough,” you are most indubitably correct.

Most of America seems to have moved on, but in Indiana, there seems to be an endless line of officeholders looking for new ways to gin up problems for gay or transgender people. Can things be straightened out – can the rights of a tiny minority be preserved – without the upcoming legislature turning this into another sideshow for intolerance?

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