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Secretary of State worried about Real ID Act

By | 2006-01-26T09:00:00-05:00 January 26th, 2006|News|

By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman

DETROIT — Newly obtained documents reveal that Michigan state officials are concerned that federal legislation called the Real ID Act will require extensive changes to existing practices at the Secretary of State’s Office. Concerns include the difficulty of implementation by the Act’s deadline and heavy expenses that will have to be absorbed by Michigan taxpayers and license applicants. The Act, passed by Congress last spring, imposes federal regulations on the design, issuance and management of state driver’s licenses – turning them, for all practical purposes, into federal identity papers.
“Civil liberties groups, conservative groups, immigration groups – we’ve all been saying that Real ID will be a real disaster and needs to be revisited by Congress,” said Kary Moss, ACLU of Michigan executive director. “These documents indicate that Michigan officials – the people actually responsible for carrying out this ill-conceived law – also have serious problems with Real ID.”
The documents are part of a national survey of state motor vehicle officials’ views of and preparation for complying with Real ID conducted by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. A copy of Michigan’s response to the survey was obtained by the ACLU.
Among those who would have even more trouble obtaining a driver’s license under the Act are transgender individuals. As reported by BTL in May 2005, Michigan’s Secretary of State has decided to require transgender individuals to provide proof of having undergone gender reassignment surgery before changing the gender marker on a driver’s license. The Real ID Act requires state driver’s licensing bureaus to collect copies of drivers’ birth certificates, further complicating the process for those whose gender identities no longer conform to those on their birth certificate.
“The Real ID Act would create additional headaches [for transgender citizens] because other states don’t allow people to change their gender identity on their birth certificates,” said Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan’s LGBT Project, during a May interview with Between The Lines.
In the survey, Michigan officials indicate that they will have to use electronic databases to obtain social security numbers, immigration status or military records, but acknowledge that no national databases exist for birth certificates or addresses, which will necessitate manual phone calls to verify the information in order to comply with the act.
“Fortunately, the opposition to this bill is so broad – and is becoming broader as more people figure out what it would do and what it would cost – that there is a very good chance that we can force Congress to take it up again,” said Moss.

Learn more

Michigan’s response to the AAMVA survey is online at
Contact your U.S. Representative and our U.S. Senators and urge them to revisit the Real ID Act, which would create costly delays at the Secretary of State’s office and make it more difficult for transgender individuals to obtain a driver’s license or change the gender marker on their existing one.
Senator Carl Levin: 202-224-6221 or email by visiting
Senator Debbie Stabenow: 202-224-4822 or TTY: 202-224-2066 or e-mail
To find your U.S. Representative, visit Project Vote Smart at or call the U.S. Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121.
For more on this story see “Secretary of State reverses pro-trans policy,” and “Real I.D. Act – making a bad situation worse,” online at

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.