A Florida Bill Would Require Trans People to List Their Assigned Birth Sex on New IDs. Here’s What to Know

A Florida Bill Would Require Trans People to List Their Assigned Birth Sex on New IDs. Here’s What to Know

More than a hundred activists and allies gathered at the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee Wednesday to protest anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, including one bill that would bar residents from having accurate gender markers on their state identification cards.

House Bill 1639, which is up for vote in the House on Thursday, expands on a memo issued by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles on Jan. 26 that prevents Floridians from updating their gender markers on existing state identification documents. 

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This proposed legislation would require individuals to list their sex assigned at birth on their identification cards, and affect those seeking a first-time ID or license. The bill would impact tens of thousands of Floridians; nearly 95,000 transgender adults and 16,200 transgender youth aged 13-17 call Florida home, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA’s School of Law.

Queer advocates and allies have largely opposed the legislation, which has unclear parameters for enforcement.

“Imagine a police officer pulling someone over for speeding and questioning the driver about whether the male or female designation on their license reflects the officer’s assumption about a person’s gender,” said Kara Gross, legislative director of the ACLU of Florida. “Are we really passing legislation that requires adults to prove their gender at traffic stops? Would the officer be able to confiscate the license if they refused?” 

Here’s what to know about the new legislation.  

What would the bill do?

House Bill 1639 would change any references to gender in section 322—which dictates how residents can obtain a state identification card—to sex. Sex, under state law, would be defined as the classification of an individual as either male or female based on the genitalia they present at birth. If the bill passes, state identification cards would reflect an individual’s sex assigned at birth, not gender identity.

These rules would go into effect on July 1, but other provisions could go into effect later. 

For example, the bill has additional measures that would require health insurance companies who offer coverage for sex-reassignment prescriptions to also require coverage for treatment to detransition. The proposed legislation also “may not prohibit the coverage of mental health or therapeutic services to treat a person’s perception that his or her sex, is inconsistent with such person’s sex at birth by affirming the insured’s sex.”

The ACLU of Florida said that these measures would require health plans to “cover the widely discredited practice of conversion therapy and create additional obstacles for health plans to cover gender-affirming care,” according to a February press release. (Rep. Doug Bankson, a co-sponsor of the bill, previously denied that the legislation would cover conversion therapy, but did not give any examples of other treatments health insurers would have to cover.) 

These changes would only apply to health insurance plans that are delivered, issued, or renewed on or after Jan. 1, 2025. 

Why are people protesting it?

LGBTQ+ residents, advocates, and allies are protesting against this legislation, and others, because they say the bill is part of a targeted attack against them. More than 10 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been filed this Florida legislative session, according to the ACLU’s legislative tracker

“No human being should be stripped of their rights. While we may not agree with the life an individual lives, respect isn’t a compromise! The Florida government has failed again to act in their professional capacity,” Ashley Figueroa, founder of the Gender Advancement Project, an organization that fights for trans inclusion, said via email. 

Other critics have pointed out that the legislation would deny the legal recognition of transgender individuals. 

How would it apply to current licenses?

HB 1639 would force transgender Floridians who are obtaining a first-time identification card to list their assigned sex at birth, instead of gender, on their state ID.

The proposed legislation would work in conjunction with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles memo, which bars residents with existing state IDs or licenses from being able to change their gender markers, according to Simone Chriss, the director of the transgender rights initiative at the Southern Legal Counsel. (Chriss is an attorney representing plaintiffs in Doe v. Ladapo, which challenges Florida SB 254 and related Boards of Medicine rules that restrict access to health care for transgender adults and ban care for transgender adolescents.) 

“Expanding the Department’s authority to issue replacement licenses dependent on one’s internal sense of gender or sex identification is violative of the law,” the department said in an email to TIME. “Therefore, the Department has rescinded IR-08 Gender Requirements, and the recission pertains solely to replacement license requests.” 

The department directive warned that people who “misrepresent” their gender on a state ID would face criminal and civil penalties that could include the “cancellation, suspension, or revocation of a driver’s license.” 

But how the state would enforce this is unclear. Florida requires residents to present primary identification documents, one of which can be a U.S. passport, to obtain a state ID. Chriss points out that many transgender folks have changed, or can change their gender markers on their passports. 

“For the folks that have a valid U.S. passport that reflects their gender identity, by the terms of the [Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles] policy, including the new one, they have to reflect that gender marker on the ID,” says Chriss. “It’s going to be interesting to see how they try to remedy that with their clear intent, which is to make it so that trans people can’t have IDs that reflect their gender identity.

The memo doesn’t appear to impact​​ residents who have already changed their gender markers on their state IDs, Chriss says. However, HB 1639 does not specify how or whether this will harm transgender individuals who have already updated gender markers on their state ID to match their gender identity. 

“Will their license be revoked? Will they no longer be able to hold a valid driver’s license? We ask these questions because they are not answered in the bill,” said Gross. 

Chriss says that a legal challenge is inevitable. “The state of Florida has consistently enacted rules, policies, and legislation with vague, ambiguous language and undefined terms, with the goal of creating fear and uncertainty among the targeted community,” she says. “If this passes, then I think we would challenge, holistically, the statute as well as the new [directive].”

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