Mississippi Department of Public Safety rescinds form to change gender on licenses, IDs

Published 12:05 pm Thursday, November 4, 2021

The state Department of Public Safety has rescinded a policy that made it easier for Mississippians to change the gender marker on their licenses and ID cards.

Earlier this week, The Sun Herald in Biloxi reported the department in October created a form people can fill out to change their gender marker on the licenses or ID cards from male to female or female to male. The form did not have a nonbinary option.

On Wednesday, some who tried to apply for licenses using the form discovered it wasn’t being accepted.

“The memorandum and form sent out to all Driver Service Bureau employees were sent without the Commissioner’s knowledge and authorization,” Chris Vignes, DPS deputy commissioner of external affairs, said in a statement to the Sun Herald, referring to Commissioner Sean Tindell. “As a result, they are no longer being utilized. It is my understanding that there is still pending litigation, so we cannot offer any additional comments at this time.”

With the form rescinded, a Mississippi resident who wants to change the gender marker on their license has to first amend their birth certificate, which requires a court order and medical documentation.

Alexandra Dogwood grew up in Mississippi and told the Sun Herald she recently moved back from Missouri. Dogwood, who identifies as a transgender woman, had already legally changed her name and had completed a gender designation form in Missouri.

Dogwood said when she went to get a new Mississippi driver’s license in Hattiesburg, employees would not give her one because the sex on her Mississippi birth certificate did not match her Missouri paperwork and license. The employees said the birth certificate was the only document they could accept. Mississippi, Missouri and most other states are part of a compact to recognize each other’s driver’s licenses.

Dogwood said employees addressed her as “sir,” read her documents aloud and laughed at her as she left without a license.

An attorney representing her, Matthew Lawrence of Hattiesburg, filed a complaint against the Department of Public Safety on Oct. 21 in Hinds County Chancery Court. Lawrence argued that because amending a birth certificate can often take up to six months, it was impossible for Dogwood and others in her position to comply with a law requiring them to get a Mississippi driver’s license within 60 days of moving to the state.

Mississippi law specifies that the commissioner of public safety may set “reasonable rules and regulations” about driver’s licenses.

 

Kevin Raymond, director of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety’s driver service bureau, issued the memo to employees on Oct. 28 describing the new policy.

Vignes declined to say when Raymond’s memo was rescinded and whether DPS will reissue the form.

“A person’s transgender or non-binary status should be treated with sensitivity and confidentiality, just as one would treat any other personal life experience,” Raymond wrote. “A transgender or non-binary customer may or may not want to discuss their gender identity or expression with employees. Respect the wishes of the customer.”

Raymond also wrote: “Employees must not engage in gossip about any customer, especially personal issues such as gender identity or expression.”

Raymond’s Oct. 28 memo said anyone requesting a change to the gender designation on their driver’s license or ID simply had to give up their old license, “submit a completed Gender Designation Form,” and pay a fee.