KEVIN LEININGER: You’ll need proof to earn a star on your Hoosier driver’s license — and an ‘X’ now, too

The star on this sample Indiana driver's license indicates it complies with federal Real ID requirements. Now Hoosiers can list their gender as "X" -- if they have the proof. (Image courtesy Indiana BMV)
Kevin Leininger

Some of my fellow Hoosiers are ashamed Indiana seems determined to remain just one of five states without a hate-crime law, but they can at least take pride in the fact that this supposed red-neck enclave has just become one of only six states to issue so-called “non-binary” driver’s licenses.

Which, in a strange and admittedly roundabout way, should mollify a conservative friend who just renewed his license under the Real ID Act Congress passed in 2005 to beef up security on airplanes and elsewhere in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Like most conservatives I know, he’s a logical sort with little tolerance for hypocrisy. So after displaying his passport, Social Security card and two original documents stating his name and current address, he marveled at the obvious double standard.

“I found these requirements interesting, especially when so many people seem to be upset regarding anyone demanding a valid ID to be able to vote,” he wrote. “So it’s OK to require this in order to fly in every state, but not to be able to cast a vote in an election in some states. What a joke.”

He might be right, had the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives not just defeated a non-binding resolution stating “It is the sense of Congress that allowing illegal immigrants the right to vote devalues the franchise and diminishes the voting power of United States citizens.” At least by the time Indiana fully implements the Real ID law, driver’s licenses presented as identification at polling places should prevent people in the country illegally from electing its politicians, if not from influencing them.

But preventing voter fraud wasn’t Congress’ intent when it passed the Real ID Act. Rather, the law implemented the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the federal government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses. Beginning Oct. 1, 2020, Real ID documents will be required to board commercial airplanes or enter certain federal facilities.

Compliance requires applicants to prove their identity using such documents as a passport or original birth certificate; to prove their lawful status with similar documents; to verify their Social Security number and to show Indiana residency. People who have changed their names will have to show a marriage certificate or other documentation.

According to Bureau of Motor Vehicles spokeswoman Christine Meyer, Indiana began implementing the law in 2010, with about 51 percent of the 5.2 million active driver’s licenses already converted with the help of a $6.5 million federal grant. Real ID licenses have a star in the upper right-hand corner.

Now it seems that star will be joined by an “X” to identify Hoosiers who identify themselves as neither male nor female. Under the current language of gender-identity othodoxy, such people are (according to Wikipedia) “outside the gender binary and cisnormativity.” But they are not outside the rules of verification, which should offer at least a little solace to my friend.

Under the policy implemented this month by the BMV on the recommendation of the American Academy of Motor Vehicle Administrators, applicants can qualify for the gender-neutral “X” must present such documentation as a certified, amended birth certificate attesting to a gender change or a signed and dated physician’s statement attesting to a permanent gender change. If you’re not allowed to falsify your legal status, address or Social Security, you shouldn’t be allowed to fudge your gender, either. Right?

So although Indiana may not have a hate-crime law, we do at long last have something in common with Oregon, Maine, Minnesota, Colorado, California and Washington, D.C. X marks the dubious spot.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Kevin Leininger at or call him at 461-8355.