GOP-led panel approves new restrictions for Indiana driver's license gender change

State Rep. Holli Sullivan, R-Evansville, presides Wednesday over a meeting of the House Roads and Transportation Committee. The GOP-led panel voted to require transgender Hoosiers obtain a court order and amend their birth certificate in order to change the gender listed on their driver's license or state identification card.

INDIANAPOLIS — Hoosiers seeking to alter the gender listed on their driver's license, or any other credential issued by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, soon may have to obtain a court order to make the switch.

On Wednesday, the House Roads and Transportation Committee voted along party lines to revise Senate Bill 182 to allow only the submission of a certified, amended birth certificate to the BMV to complete a gender identity change.

The BMV currently processes gender changes after receiving either a certified, amended birth certificate, or a state form completed by a licensed physician confirming that an individual has undergone treatment to permanently change their gender.

A physician also can submit a signed and dated statement on office letterhead confirming a gender change, so long as the wording used in the statement substantially matches the gender change language required by the Indiana Administrative Code.

State Rep. Holli Sullivan, R-Evansville, the committee chairwoman, said the BMV shouldn't be in the business of interpreting doctor's notes, and requiring Hoosiers who change their gender to acquire an amended birth certificate will eliminate any processing questions at the BMV.

"It does not say that you cannot change your gender. They still have the process to do that. It does take the BMV out of the picture of making any medical sort of decisions," Sullivan said.

State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, was unpersuaded by that argument.

"Reading a doctor's note isn't making a medical decision. We do that with handicapped placards," Candelaria Reardon said. "I don't know why it would be so difficult to do it with this, and continue to use the process that we have now."

Court order required

The State Department of Health generally requires a court order, signed and dated by a judge, to change the gender identification on an Indiana birth certificate.

Katie Blair, ACLU of Indiana director of advocacy and public policy, said that means if Sullivan's proposal becomes law, transgender Hoosiers will have to go through "the burdensome and costly legal process of changing their birth certificate in order to update their ID.

"In addition, this language will leave some Indiana residents who were born in a state that does not allow birth certificate updates, completely unable to get accurate identification," Blair said.

Sullivan insisted, "It is not my intention, or anybody's intention, to make anything harder. It is to be able to put a process together that can be followed and that there won't be questions on how to follow the process."

Candelaria Reardon asked in response: "What happens to the people that are in transition and they're not one or the other yet? They're in the middle of a transition. How do we address their concerns? How do they get a certified birth certificate?"

'X' gender credential

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While the State Department of Health will list a "U" on a birth certificate when a baby's gender is undetermined at birth, due to ambiguous genitals or internal sex organs, it's not clear whether a non-binary Hoosier subsequently can change their birth certificate to anything other than "male" or "female."

Sullivan said she is not trying to eliminate "X" gender credentials, as her colleague, state Rep. Matt Hostettler, R-Fort Branch, proposed doing Tuesday.

She just wants the birth certificate to be the sole document for establishing gender identity at the BMV.

"If you have a birth certificate for a medical condition where you are a 'U,' and nobody wants to talk about that, it's not comfortable. But there are Hoosiers that are dealing with that," Sullivan said.

"I think at that time you could have a different indicator because your birth certificate reads that way."

Blair said there's no question that Sullivan's proposal is "a spiteful reaction" to the BMV policy making a non-binary gender option available to Hoosiers.

"Accurate identification is necessary in many areas of everyday life, and yet, elected officials want to force gender non-binary people to carry identification that does not accurately identify them," Blair said.

"This is not only humiliating, but can also invite discrimination and, in some cases, violence."

Melton displeased

State Sen. Eddie Melton said he was displeased that his Senate-approved legislation directing the BMV to develop a mobile credential, as a supplement to Hoosiers' physical driver's license or ID card, was used  include the amended birth certificate requirement for a gender change.

"This was never my intent for this bill, and it was already properly vetted in the Senate for its original purpose," Melton said. "I wanted to create a pathway to help Hoosiers with the convenience of a mobile license, but this amendment will only hurt individuals.

"The process of changing your gender on your birth certificate is lengthy and overwhelming, including multiple doctor and therapist visits, hiring of lawyers, meeting and paying for court dates, and some even have to pay a local newspaper to print their name and the fact that they changed their gender. This process can cost thousands of dollars and can cause severe emotional trauma to an individual," he said.

"This amendment was offered at the last second with little notice for the General Assembly and the public to weigh in. I will fight to prevent this bill from becoming a piece of legislation that devalues someone."

The revised legislation will be eligible next week for additional changes proposed by any member of the Republican-controlled House.

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