Mar 12, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Arkansas rolls back gender-neutral ID policy

photo of Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Photo by Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images

Arkansas will no longer allow "X" to be listed as the holder's sex on driver's licenses or other state-issued IDs, instead requiring a designation of male or female, the state's Department of Finance and Administration announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: The X designation gave nonbinary, gender-nonconforming and intersex people the option to not define sex on their IDs. And transgender people whose IDs do not match their gender expression risk being outed every time their ID is checked.

The sex listed on an ID must now match the sex listed on the holder's birth certificate.

Zoom out: Florida recently banned transgender people from changing their IDs to match their gender identities, and Oklahoma in 2022 became the first state to explicitly ban nonbinary gender markers on state birth certificates.

Background: Arkansas quietly began offering the gender-neutral option and allowing ID holders to change the sex listed on their IDs without documentation back in 2010.

State of play: Arkansas requires a court order following a surgical procedure for people to change their sex and name on their birth certificates.

What they're saying: "This policy is just common sense. Only women give birth, men shouldn't play women's sports, and there are only two genders. As long as I'm governor, Arkansas state government will not endorse nonsense," Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a news release.

The other side: The ACLU of Arkansas denounced the policy change.

  • "Accurate and consistent identity documents are a fundamental necessity, enabling individuals to travel, secure employment, open bank accounts and enroll in educational programs. For transgender people, in particular, an ID that accurately reflects their true self is not just a matter of dignity — it is crucial for their safety and well-being," the organization said in a statement Tuesday.
  • Not allowing the X designation seeks to erase nonbinary and intersex Arkansans, the ACLU said.

By the numbers: 342 Arkansas driver's licenses and 174 state IDs have the X designation, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

  • That's less than 1% of the state's combined 2,668,881 active driver's licenses and 503,294 IDs, according to data from the Department of Finance and Administration.

What's next: Existing licenses and IDs with the X designation will remain valid through their expiration dates.

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