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Arkansas Supreme Court reinstates gender-neutral ID ban

The Arkansas Supreme Court on Monday released a formal order in an ongoing legal battle over gender-neutral IDs.

For the past 14 years, Arkansans were allowed to put an “X” on their driver's license for their gender. This came after years of only allowing “M'' or “F.” License holders were also allowed to change their names.

In March, the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration got legislative approval to ban the practice. This was an emergency rule change that can only be used in cases of “imminent peril.”

At a meeting, DFA Secretary Jim Hudson could not come up with an example of someone who was harmed by the policy. He said allowing someone to have an “X” caused potential harm.

The ACLU brought a lawsuit against the department. They said the department said there was no evidence of imminent peril as no one was harmed by the “X” on the driver's license.

In June, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Patricia James agreed, issuing a ruling stopping the ban from going into place. She said the rule change did not constitute an emergency worthy of a rule change, and that people not being able to put an “X” on their driver's license are actually harmed by the policy.

“The Court heard compelling testimony that the gender markers on Plaintiffs’ licenses are an important part of their gender identities or gender transitions,” James said.

Last week, the ACLU posted on Instagram a request for people to update their driver’s license or ID “as soon as possible."

On Monday, the Arkansas Supreme Court reversed James’ ruling. The one-page order did not explain their decision.

John C. Williams, Legal Director of the ACLU of Arkansas, said he was “deeply disappointed.”

“We will continue to defend the circuit court’s order as the State’s appeal proceeds,” he said.

Scott Hardin, spokesman for the DFA said he is "grateful for the Arkansas Supreme Court."

"DFA is immediately reinstating the revised procedures requiring a Driver’s License or state ID to conform to gender listed on a birth certificate."

Note: the article was edited to add the statement from DFA.

Copyright 2024 KUAR

Josie Lenora is a news anchor and reporter for KUAR News at Little Rock Public Radio. She has listened to KUAR and NPR since she was a young child growing up in Little Rock and says she is thrilled to give back to an organization she loves. Josie was previously an intern in the fall of 2021 assisting in production, then spent another semester with the station interning in the newsroom in the spring of 2022.