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NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Legislators should decide BMV gender rule

Citizens of Indiana spoke out at a public hearing a week ago about a proposed rule change by the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles allowing a “Gender X” option on state drivers licenses.

The BMV decided to offer the option of driver’s licenses and state identification cards with a non-binary gender option for residents who don’t identify as male or female. The fact is the BMV has been changing sex from male to female and vice versa on Hoosier IDs since 2009. All that is needed is to download a form and have a physician sign it.

News-Sentinel.com objected that the BMV made such a change in law rather than recommending the option for state legislators to decide. We think the comments at the hearing in Indianapolis and the hundreds of comments submitted against the binary X option indicate that Indiana does not deem this option necessary.

The proposed new rule that would require Hoosiers wanting to show a gender change on their IDs to take an additional step by downloading an Indiana State Department of Health form and having their physician sign it. The physician’s signature would affirm that the person filing the form “has been under my care and has received appropriate clinical treatment for transition.”

The citizen then must mail the signed form to the health department along with a copy of their photo ID. The health department will then mail a confirmation of receipt of the physician’s statement on gender change back to the citizen, who must then take that form to the local BMV office. Transgender activists reportedly oppose the proposed change because it is burdensome.

American Family Association of Indiana Executive Director Micah Clark was among those speaking out against the policy in general, saying the proposed rule “may liberalize the ability of people to change their sex from male to female, or female to male, through merely a doctor’s signature for all state documents.”

Clark was among those who testified against the rule change, raising questions about the politicization of Indiana driver’s licenses. He stated that “Gender X” undermines the credibility of our state’s primary ID.

It also raises questions for law enforcement, Clark wrote in an email followup to the hearing: “If necessary, does a male or a female officer search a Gender X driver? If detained, in which cell does a Gender X person reside?”

A Journal Gazette report on the hearing quoted a Rushville resident who spoke at the hearing, urging the BMV not to fall into this “new social agenda.” She said allowing minors to check a box for a non-binary “X” option is wrong.

If no changes are made to the final rule and it is adopted by the BMV, it would go to Attorney General Curtis Hill and Gov. Mike Holcomb for review this month before being published. The expected date for the rule taking effect would be March 5.

We agree with Clark, who wrote, “People are free to live as they choose, but our state’s highest form of ID needs to be scientifically accurate, not politically correct.” Our concern has been that the shifts in this policy should not redefine social policy in our state without careful consideration and legislation beyond the scope of the BMV and the Department of Health.

While the BMV will now consider the comments from last week’s hearing before proceeding, we think this issue should be in the hands of the Indiana Legislature, not a state agency.

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