Florida – Last Friday, all members of Florida’s Democratic team in Congress asked President Biden to stop a new rule in Florida. This rule will require everyone in the state to put the gender given at birth in their personal documents. The entire Florida’s Democratic congressional delegation now seeks Biden admin to step and block this law using the federal Real ID Act law. This is the first time all Democratic representatives from Florida have come together to ask for help to protect transgender people in their state from being treated unfairly.
Biden and the White House should to more about trans rights
Although President Biden’s team has tried to support transgender rights, some people say they haven’t done enough. Since Biden became president, there have been more than 1,000 laws proposed that could harm transgender people. If the Biden administration steps in to stop Florida’s rule using the Real ID Act, it would be a big deal in supporting transgender individuals.
Two bills threaten trans’ rights in Florida
This request comes because Florida is trying to pass two rules. One would stop people from changing the gender on their licenses, a step that would be consider as lying and could lead to serious trouble, like losing their license. At the same time, another law being discussed could stop these changes entirely and even support harmful practices like conversion therapy.
Can Real ID act help?
Right away, people started guessing that a law called the Real ID Act, made by Republicans in 2005, might help transgender people in states that don’t want to change their driver’s licenses. This law says state IDs need to show a person’s “gender.” The Biden team might find ways to make sure states follow this law, like starting a new rule process or saying Florida isn’t following the rules.
These guesses seemed to be right, especially to some lawmakers. Congressman Maxwell Frost and all the Florida Democrats in Congress wrote a letter on Friday. They said if Florida’s changes are allowed, and if other states do the same, it will cause a lot of confusion and problems for Americans who want to travel. This includes LGBTQ+ Americans who want to leave states that are unfriendly to them.
They asked the U.S. government to make Florida and any other state follow the law and do everything possible to stop discrimination against transgender people on their driver’s licenses.
Other stats might follow Florida’s proposals
If Biden decides to act, it could really affect states that stop transgender people from updating their driver’s licenses. Because of the Real ID Act, states need to follow certain rules for their IDs to be used for flying. States that don’t follow these rules could make it hard for their people to travel.
This is just one way the government can help transgender people in places where they’re not safe; states like Iowa and Kansas are also looking at or already have similar bans. Plus, there are more laws being proposed in various states that would ignore transgender people’s rights completely, including stopping them from changing their driver’s licenses.
The Biden team has a powerful way to fight back against states making these anti-trans laws. Now that every Florida Democrat in Congress has sent this letter, there’s big pressure to use this power to help transgender people in Florida who are suddenly under legal threat by the state. Until something is done, transgender people in Florida are in a tough spot, accused of breaking the law just by having a driver’s license that shows who they are.
This is the letter in full:
Dear Secretary Mayorkas,
In light of recent action by the State of Florida, we urge the Department of Homeland Security to pursue rulemaking under the Real ID Act to ensure that Florida driver licenses and Federal identification documents remain consistent and in line with the purpose of Real ID.
This past week, Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) eliminated one’s ability to update their gender on their driver license. Forcing Floridians to carry driver licenses that may not correspond to their gender is in direct conflict with the stated purpose of the Real ID Act: “to make our identity documents more consistent and secure.”
It will create confusion when one’s Florida driver license and one’s Federal identification, like a passport, list two different genders and will increase tension and delays in already stressful situations like traffic stops and airport security. It will also lead to unnecessary detentions and unlawful arrests.
The FLHSMV’s directive, sent on January 26th to County Tax Collectors, the agencies that issue driver licenses in Florida, rescinds guidance that allowed these agencies to issue new driver licenses to licensees who wished to update the gender noted on their license. This new directive also boldly and erroneously asserts that gender is “a synonym for ‘sex,’ which is determined by innate and immutable biological and genetic characteristics.” It ends with a threat to trans drivers: “misrepresenting one’s gender, understood as sex, on a driver license constitutes fraud…and subjects an offender to criminal and civil penalties, including cancellation, suspension, or revocation of his or her driver license…”
Also last week, Florida House Bill 1639 was voted favorably out of committee. This bill strikes the word “gender” from the list of required displayed identifiers on a Florida driver license and replaces it with “sex.” It defines “sex” as “the classification of a person as either male or female based on the organization of the human body of such person for a specific reproductive role as indicated by the person’s sex chromosomes, naturally occurring sex hormones, and internal and external genitalia present at birth.” This will likely mean the invalidation of trans, gender-nonconforming, and other Floridians’ driver licenses.
Currently, Florida driver licenses qualify as Real ID Act compliant. If the above-described revisions are allowed to stand in Florida, and similar provisions are allowed to stand in other states, they will undoubtedly continue to spread, creating more confusion and inconsistency while severely hampering Americans’ ability to travel, including LGBTQ+ American’s ability to leave states that are hostile to their existence.
The Department of Homeland Security has the power to prevent this. By May 2025, all states’ driver licenses must be Real ID Act compliant to be used to proceed through airport security. Not being Real ID Act compliant would be inconceivable for an economically dynamic state like Florida.
Therefore, we strongly urge the Department of Homeland Security to pursue rulemaking under the Real ID Act that would include, but not be limited to, requiring one’s gender/sex identifier on compliant state identification to match the gender on one’s Federal identification documents. If there are any other avenues through which this discrimination can be combatted, we encourage the Department to pursue those as well.