By Gwendolyn Ann Smith
In an effort to protect against terrorists, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the REAL ID act of 2005, also known as H.R. 418. A similar bill will soon go to the Senate, and President Bush has promised to sign this legislation into law.
This ID act consists of three main sections. The first prevents terrorists from obtaining asylum in the United States, and the second gives the Secretary of Homeland Security fairly wide-reaching power to create barriers along the borders of the country.
It is the third part of this act that is causing the most concern, and it is here where I find myself more than a little worried. In this section, the Government is seeking a Federal standard for state driver’s licenses or identification cards. Effectively, this will remove much of any given states’ ability to have its own standards for identification.
Moreover, this also would call for all states to link their Department of Motor Vehicle databases, which could eventually lead to a single, nationwide database storing all of a person’s identification.
To tell you the truth, I would rather not have my identity managed for me.
Knowing what a lengthy process identity management can be, and knowing that there is often no simple procedure in place for changing one’s identification markers is what concerns me about the REAL ID Act. You see, it mandates Federal requirements, but doesn’t give any easy concept for changing any of the information.
This potential National database, too, is a concern. We live in an information age, and a database containing one’s name birth date, Social Security number, address, and yes, gender in a centralized location could at some later point link to even more sensitive materials, such as one’s medical information.
It is not to say that there isn’t something to be said for a little uniformity in the way records are kept. The problem is that such uniformity can all-too-easily cause those of us who do not conform all that well to end up with some rather unpleasant issues to deal with.
Consider, for example, the continuing fight over same-sex marriage. The issue that faces a transperson in all this is – when a law states that marriage is for one man and one woman – there is no clear definition of just what is meant by “man” or “woman.” Thus far, most DOMA struggles have involved the marriage of transgender people, and it is those same transgender people who have so often lost not only their marriage rights, but even their identity as a man or woman thanks to those marriage statutes.
The way this has played out at the federal level, thus far, has been to see entities like Immigration and Naturalization Services disallowing immigration via marriage when one of the parties involved is transsexual – regardless of surgical or legal status in a given gender.
Indeed, one could easily foresee a situation under the REAL ID act where gender markers would be immutable. Given the aforementioned “bar all transsexuals” stance of the INS, I don’t exactly feel confident that a change in a national identification database would be easily won, nor that nationally-imposed standards for identification would have a liberal method for changing one’s information.
The ironic part of all this is that while it certainly has the possibility of causing a lot of trouble for a transgender woman such as myself, it could cause little real disruption to a terrorist. If one wants an identification card, I’m sure that there are still plenty of fakes out there being made Ñ and if one is truly willing to carry out some of heinous crime such as a major terrorist attack, having a valid driver’s license is not going to be a necessity.
Indeed, the only people I see being thwarted by the REAL ID act are those who like myself, who simply want to be able to manage our own identity paperwork without fear that some government agency will be given the chance to determine just what gender we should be listed as.
I hope you will stand with me against this REAL ID act, and consider dropping a line to your Senator voicing your opposition.