The Arkansas Legislative Council on Friday rubber-stamped an emergency rule change from the state Department of Finance and Administration that will make it much harder for Arkansans to change the gender listed on their driver’s license or other state-issued ID. The rule also requires all IDs to say either “M” or “F,” eliminating a gender-neutral option of “X.”

Because it’s an “emergency” change, the finance department didn’t have to solicit public comment, as would be the case with a permanent change in state rules.

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A subcommittee of the ALC signed off yesterday on the rule, and today’s voice vote from the full ALC means the change is now in effect. Finance Secretary Jim Hudson and other state officials have said a discrepancy in gender listed on official documents could create confusion for law enforcement. But the real goal is to score political points at the expense of transgender and other LGBTQ people, as made clear by Gov. Sarah Sanders’ comments Tuesday announcing the change: “Only women give birth, men shouldn’t play women’s sports, and there are only two genders,” the governor said.

Democrats on the ALC tried to slow down the train Friday, to no avail.

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The state has allowed people to change the gender on their driver’s license with minimal fuss since 2010. Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D-Little Rock) asked Hudson why that 14-year-old policy suddenly constitutes an “emergency” requiring immediate action. Hudson said it’s a safety issue, but he cited no instances of law enforcement being unable to identify a person due to the gender on their state ID.

“So we’re dealing with potentiality, rather than reality?” Chesterfield asked.

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“Potentiality is very real, too,” Hudson said.

Removing the gender option is unnecessary, Chesterfield said, and pointlessly cruel.

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Sen. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock) made a separate motion to pull out the proposed rule change for separate consideration. Tucker said he objected to the substance of the change but also the rushed manner in which it was being considered.

For something to qualify as an emergency, he said, there must be an imminent “peril to the public health, safety or welfare.”

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“We’ve had this policy for 14 years and we cannot cite one example of harm that has occurred,” Tucker said. The goal of using the emergency rule process was to keep the public from commenting on the proposal, he said. “On it’s face, it’s plainly not an emergency.”

Rep. Charlene Fite (R-Van Buren) asked whether the Legislature previously signed off on a rule change that allowed Arkansans to change the gender listed on state ID or choose an “X” option. She was told by the committee chair that the change was never formalized as a rule but was instead established as a matter of policy at the Department of Finance and Administration.

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Tucker’s motion failed on a voice vote, after which ALC gave approval to the emergency rule change.