BY AJ TRAGER
DETROIT – State Rep. Brian Banks, D-Harper Woods, introduced legislation June 18 that would create a process for individuals who need to change the gender marker on a driver’s or chauffeur’s license and a state-issued identification card.
“Michigan citizens need a photo ID in order to fully participate in society and conduct everyday business such as opening a bank or credit union account, getting on a plane or a train, or applying for a job. It’s critical that a person’s photo ID match their gender presentation,” said Banks. “My bills would allow an individual to change the gender listed on their state ID or license by presenting certain documents to the Michigan Secretary of State.”
The package of bills including House Bills 4698 and 4699 would make it easier for Michigan residents to change the gender marker on their state issued IDs. Michigan’s current policy is one of the strictest policies in the country and was implemented in 2011 by Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. The state refuses to allow a change in gender marker unless an individual produces an amended birth certificate showing the correct gender. However, obtaining an amended birth certificate from the state requires a person to undergo gender confirmation surgery Ñ a surgery that is expensive and often risky.
Banks began discussion on amending the state’s policy last year after a meeting with representatives from the Ruth Ellis Center, LGBT Detroit, Equality Michigan and the ACLU of Michigan. Following that discussion, Banks began drafting the bills. House Bills 4698 and 4699 both have 10 sponsors not including Banks, many members of which were a part of the early discussions.
“When someone’s ID doesn’t reflect their appearance and identity, it doesn’t serve the state’s interest at best,” Banks said. “Any policy requiring the inclusion of false, misleading or outdated information pretty much undermines the validity of all the state identification documents.”
Banks referred to instances in the state when members of the trans community have been placed in harm because their state issued ID did not match their gender presentation and as a result were harmed, harassed by law enforcement, endured intimidation and, in a few instances, lost their life. Rep. Banks would like to see all Michigan citizens treated fairly and equally and afforded the same constitutional rights that every citizen is afforded.
“We applaud Rep. Banks for introducing legislation to correct Michigan’s current flawed and unreasonable policy regarding gender changes on driver’s licenses and state IDs. The representative proposes policies that are much more in sync with what most other states as well as the federal government have been doing Ñ no longer requiring surgery as a condition for receiving proper identity documents. This is in accordance with current medical science regarding the treatment of gender dysphoria. It should also be noted that the Secretary of State could, on its own (and) without legislation, fix its problematic policy,” said ACLU of Michigan LGBT Project Attorney Jay Kaplan.
At the end of May, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Michigan filed a federal lawsuit against the Michigan Secretary of State, on behalf of six plaintiffs, challenging a department policy that makes it impossible for many transgender individuals to correct the gender marker on their driver’s licenses and other forms of identification.
“I am a pretty open guy about my gender identity, but it should be my decision whether to tell someone that I was assigned a female at birth,” said Codie Stone, plaintiff in the ACLU lawsuit. “Right now I don’t have that choice when I want to buy alcohol, use checks or a credit card in certain stores, or when interacting with state officials who may not need to know that information. That puts me in potentially dangerous positions, and the emotional weight of having to worry about how someone will react to my female identification can be a heavy burden.”
The package of bills would require someone seeking to change their gender designation on an operator’s or chauffeur’s license, or state-issued identification, to present one or more of the following forms to the Secretary of State: a U.S. passport showing the correct gender, a birth certificate showing the correct gender, a court order recognizing the correct gender, a signed letter from a health care provider stating that the individual has undergone clinically appropriate treatment based on contemporary medical standards for the purpose of gender transition, or that the individual has an intersex condition or gender dysphoria.
“A person with an ID that does not reflect their lived gender could be at risk of harassment or assault, so my bills offer a simple solution that will allow individuals to list their gender on these official state IDs,” said Banks. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass these bills and eventually see them signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder.”
The Gender Identity Network, a nonprofit that creates positive social change supporting all forms of gender identity expression, stands in support of the legislation introduced by Banks.
“These new bills being introduced will allow residents of the state of Michigan to have access to an official ID that matches their appearance including their gender presentation,” Hannah Hartley, board president of GNA said.