D.C. Offers Gender-Neutral Driver’s Licenses at Odds with Federal Law
The famously corrupt local government surrounding the nation’s capital is offering gender-neutral driver’s licenses, even though it violates federal law. Beginning next week residents in Washington D.C. can obtain the gender-neutral licenses, according to a local news report that quotes the D.C. councilwoman behind the measure proclaiming “you have the right to make a choice between male and female.” In the article the lawmaker, Brianne Nadeau, is referred to as a gender-neutral “council member.”
Residents will have an array of gender choices that include “non-binary” and “undesignated,” according to the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Depending on what option is chosen, an “X” will appear on the card in the place of an “M” for male or “F” for female. Councilwoman Nadeau, who represents Ward 1, is sponsoring a bill to make the gender-neutral licenses part of the permanent city code. She’s concerned that the gender-neutral license program can be revoked by a new administration in D.C. government. “The District has always sought to be a safe and welcoming place for our LGBTQ community, and today we are continuing to deliver on that legacy,” the councilwoman said in a statement posted on her official website. “Gender is a spectrum and some of our residents do not identify as male or female. Current licenses force residents to conform to genders that don’t accurately reflect their identity. This has not only a practical impact but also a deeply negative emotional and mental health impact. This bill changes District identification documents so they can accurately reflect the needs of our residents.”
D.C. is the nation’s second jurisdiction to offer gender-neutral licenses. Oregon was the first, allowing residents to mark gender as “not specified” on applications for learner’s permits, identity cards and driver’s licenses. Beginning next month, the state is also allowing residents to change the “sex designation” on existing licenses or ID cards. “The information you provide to DMV when changing your gender designation will be kept confidential,” according to the Oregon DMV website. Not surprisingly, California is also working to pass a similar measure and the state’s Senate has already approved a bill (Gender Recognition Act), that also includes gender-neutral birth certificates. The California bill states that “every person deserves full legal recognition and equal treatment under the law” and the legislation aims to “ensure that intersex, transgender, and nonbinary people have state-issued identification documents that provide full legal recognition of their accurate gender identity.”
The problem with all this is that it’s at odds with federal law, at least the driver’s license portion. The REAL ID Act, passed by Congress after the 9/11 terrorist attacks specifically requires gender on each driver’s license and identification card issued to a person by a state. The law was enacted in 2005 at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to establish minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s license and ID cards. It also prohibits federal agencies from accepting for official purposes licenses and identification cards that do not meet these standards. Title II of the act specifically states that “features on each driver’s license and identification card issued to a person by the State” must include: The person’s full legal name; the person’s date of birth; the person’s gender; the person’s driver’s license or identification card number; a digital photograph of the person; the person’s address of principle residence; the person’s signature; physical security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting or duplication of the document for fraudulent purposes; a common machine-readable technology with defined minimum data elements.
Under the Real ID Act federal agencies are prohibited from accepting driver’s licenses or ID cards from noncompliant states for official purposes, including boarding an aircraft, accessing federal facilities and entering nuclear power plants.