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NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Attorney General Hill right to step back, evaluate BMV gender rule

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill has halted implementation of a procedure for people to change their gender on driver’s licenses and IDs, according to the state’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

The BMV currently requires either a birth certificate or the BMV’s “Physician’s Statement of Gender Change” form to verify a change of gender. That form on the BMV website says the doctor certifies that the person “successfully underwent all treatment necessary to permanently change” their gender.

The BMV proposed a new rule that states either a birth certificate or an Indiana State Department of Health form would be needed to change the gender on licenses and IDs.

BMV officials say Hill declined to sign off on the new rule because he felt public notice about the change was not sufficient.

News-Sentinel.com supports Hill’s action in light of the BMV’s unilateral approach to policies that could potentially effect radical change in Indiana social policy.

In March, we wrote that we believed the Indiana BMV was wrong to unilaterally make into law a third gender option on Indiana drivers licenses and other state IDs and that the Indiana Legislature needed to be involved in fixing the process. The BMV was offering a third gender identifier, “X,” for transgender or nonbinary residents who don’t identify as male or female, making Indiana one of six states with a gender-neutral option for driver’s licenses and identification cards.

Those people must provide documentation that proves a permanent gender change, such as an amended birth certificate or a signed doctor’s statement.

Later in March, Indiana lawmakers shelved a bill that would have made it more difficult for residents to change their gender on driver’s licenses or state identification cards. Indiana law requires every application for a driver’s license or ID card to include information about the applicant’s gender.

The bill would have required a certified and amended birth certificate to complete a gender identity change on credentials issued by the BMV.

But House Speaker Brian Bosma said lawmakers decided to hold off on the birth certificate requirement due to concerns about birth certificate inconsistencies. Some birth certificates, varying between counties and hospitals, may list a person’s sex or gender, while others don’t include such information.

The BMV went ahead to propose its new rule to require either a birth certificate or a special state Department of Health form to change gender on licenses and IDs. The new rule was to become effective in October.

The official statement from the attorney general’s office last week did not elaborate on the gender identity issue behind the rule, when the matter would be addressed by the office nor what needed to be done to properly inform the public. The statement only explained that Hill reviews proposed rules for form and legality.

“Any recommendation made by our office regarding such rules is based on those factors rather than specific subject matter,” the statement said. “The Office of the Attorney General is duty-bound and prepared to work with state agencies to ensure the requirements of the rulemaking statutes are followed.”

Under the new stalled rule, the state health department, not the BMV, would sign off on an applicant’s attempt to be recognized on their driver’s license or state ID as anything other than their gender at birth.

Indiana Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said the health department will now accept the new health department form to change gender on birth certificates.

Hoosiers have previously needed to go through the court system to amend a birth certificate. But Box told The Journal Gazette, “We are going to make this easier for Hoosiers by removing this barrier and putting that protected health information at the Indiana State Department of Health.”

A front page story in The Journal Gazette Sunday said, “The status of that policy shift is in the air as Hill and the BMV work to make changes to the rule, which the agency has now recalled.”

Our concern is that the shifts in this policy don’t amount to the redefining of social policy in our state without careful consideration and legislation beyond the scope of the BMV and the Department of Health. We agree with the attorney general’s decision to take a closer look at the legality of this process.

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