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Transgender activists came to Tallahassee to protest House bill on driver’s licenses

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Transgender activists came to Tallahassee to protest House bill on driver’s licenses

Feb 28, 2024 | 2:41 pm ET
By Mitch Perry
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Transgender activists came to Tallahassee to protest House bill on driver’s licenses
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Florida House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell speaking in front of the old Capitol bldg. in Tallahassee on Feb. 28, 2024 (photo credit: Mitch Perry)

More than a hundred activists supporting transgender rights marched and held a rally outside the Capitol on Wednesday in protest of a bill scheduled to go for a vote in the Florida House this week that would require driver’s licenses to display a person’s sex assigned at birth, rather than the gender identity.

The bill (HB 1639) also requires all health insurance plans in the state that provides transgender-related health care to provide coverage for treatment to detransition from such procedures for “an appropriate additional premium.”

But an equivalent to the measure has never been introduced in the Senate, and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo said that with just a little over a week in the legislative session, it wasn’t going anywhere in her chamber.

“That bill is still stuck in committee,” she said “and so, pursuant to our rules. We don’t take bills. We don’t … ever take bills out of committee.”

Transgender activists came to Tallahassee to protest House bill on driver’s licenses
Orlando Dem. Rep. Anna Eskamani in front of the Old Capitol on Feb. 28, 2024 (photo credit: Mitch Perry)

Shortly after that announcement, Orlando area Democratic House Rep. Anna Eskamani told the rally outside the old Capitol building that it looks like the transgender community had “won this fight, but it’s not over until it’s over.”

“Anything can happen in this capital until sine die,” she said, referring to the final adjournment of the legislative session, March 8, scheduled for next week. “So I want to encourage everybody here to keep the pressure up.”

“We will not see the light of day of hateful legislation that they’re doing over in the House,” added South Florida Democratic state Sen. Shevin Jones. “And that’s something to celebrate.”

However, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) quietly issued a memo last month indicating that they would no longer honor Floridians requests to amend the gender marker on their driver’s licenses.

“Permitting an individual to alter his or her license to reflect an internal sense of gender role or identity, which is neither immutable nor objectively verifiable, undermines the purpose of an identification record, “wrote FLHSMV deputy director Robert Kynoch in the memo.

Jon Harris Maurer, the public policy director with Equality Florida, says that there’s been a lot of uncertainty since that announcement, “because it obviously wasn’t rolled out through a formal notice to the public rulemaking as it should have been.”

“The memo lays out a substantive policy change that should go formal notice and common rulemaking,” he adds.

However, apparently that issue is now final, as a spokesperson for the department told the Phoenix that the decision does not have to go through rulemaking.

The only other state in the country that does not allow for updating the gender marker on driver’s licenses is Kansas, according to the Movement Advancement Project.  Twenty-two states and Washington D.C. allow residents to mark M, F, or X on their driver’s licenses.

(According to the Kansas Reflector, a federal court issued a temporary restraining order last year blocking the state from making gender marker changes on driver’s licenses. However, new, replaced, or renewed credentials will be reversed to sex assigned at birth).