NO MORE NEUTRALITY: Paul Gehring and Jim Hudson with the Arkansas Department of Finances and Administration present reasoning for why the emergency rule is needed to change X genders to M and F on state ID cards.

Earlier this week, Gov. Sarah Sanders said Arkansans should no longer have the choice to select a gender-neutral “X” on drivers licenses or state-issued IDs, and should have to provided an amended birth certificate to change the sex listed.

Oh, and apparently it’s an emergency. Citing public safety and fraud prevention, the Department of Finance and Administration asked lawmakers to change the rules about gender markers on drivers licenses and other state-issued IDs ASAP.

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A mostly agreeable executive subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Committee went along with the plan Thursday. The full Arkansas Legislative Council will vote on the change Friday, March 15 at 9 a.m.

But is there even a problem here?

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About 500 residents currently hold cards with the “X” gender. The “X” has been an option on Arkansas identification cards since 2010.

The change is being proposed as an emergency rule to move it swiftly through the process and into effect. Arkansas law requires emergency rules be adopted only when there is imminent danger.

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As far as Jim Hudson and Paul Gehring with the Department of Finance and Administration know, these X’es haven’t hurt anybody. Regardless, the pair argued that there’s an increased risk to law enforcement officers’ lives when they don’t know the biological sex of someone during a traffic stop. They also said state agencies shouldn’t independently be deciding policy, and the data on licenses should align with other state documents.

The new rule would allow state officials to start making changes on licenses, from X to M or F. People who currently have their gender listed as X gender would be contacted to see what their preference is. If the state has existing documents — like a birth certificate — that match the person, officials will change the X to match whatever the existing document says. The person whose information has been changed can either pick up a new card right away, or wait until the regular renewal period.

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Hudson, who expressed he is for limiting gender to two options, said the agency wanted the new procedure to be a “respectful process” with a “minimized need for intrusive questions.”

“For me, being more consistent with what the reality is — biological male or female — it’s the safest ground to be on,” Hudson said, relating back to officers’ safety.

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A Little Rock Democratic duo of Sen. Clarke Tucker and Rep. Tippi McCullough were the only two who spoke against the emergency rule. They declined to buy into the argument that not knowing someone’s gender puts law enforcement in “imminent peril.”

What option will exist for people born intersex, McCullough asked. Gehring said because a gender is selected on an Arkansas birth certificate for those people, the license should match. People will be able to change the gender listed on their IDs if they present an amended birth certificate, he said.

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Tucker questioned why gender was the only data on a license being changed when it’s likely Arkansans fib on the other categories like height, weight and eye color. Hudson agreed that people probably provide inaccurate identifying information every now and then, but said those markers easier to identify than gender.

Tucker also probed into Arkansas passports having a gender X option. He asked why licenses can’t match the passports. There was no good rebuttal for this, though Gehring said in a perfect world all states would follow the same standards for documentation.

The full Arkansas Legislative Committee is expected to vote on this gender emergency rule in the morning. An up vote will put this emergency rule into effect.

After that, though, a permanent rule will be proposed, and there will be an opportunity for the public to comment.

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