The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arkansas today filed a lawsuit on behalf of five plaintiffs against the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (DFA), challenging a recent emergency rule that restricts the ability of transgender and nonbinary Arkansans to self-identify their gender on driver’s licenses.

The complaint argues that this emergency rule was implemented without any documented justification or compliance with the procedural requirements of the Arkansas Administrative Procedures Act, which stipulates a 30-day public notice and comment period unless there is an “imminent peril to public health, safety, or welfare” or a need to comply with federal law.

“The law requires agencies to listen to the people affected by their rules. Agencies cannot fabricate emergencies to evade that responsibility. Having failed to seek public input as required by law, DFA will now hear from us in court,” said ACLU of Arkansas Legal Director John Williams. 

“The DFA has failed to demonstrate any urgent threat to public health or safety that justifies this sudden and restrictive change in policy,” Williams added. “Instead, their actions have created a real and immediate danger to the wellbeing of our plaintiffs and other transgender, nonbinary, and intersex people, for whom accurate identification is not just a matter of dignity, but of personal security.”

Previously, the DFA permitted individuals to self-select the gender marker on their driver’s licenses, offering an “X” option for those who do not exclusively identify as male or female. This inclusive policy has been in place since at least 2010, respecting the identity of all Arkansans and aligning with modern understanding and recognition of gender diversity.

The complaint states that on March 15, 2024, the DFA abruptly and unjustly altered this policy, imposing an emergency rule that necessitates an amended birth certificate for any gender-marker changes on driver’s licenses and that completely abolishes the “X” marker option. This sudden policy shift stands in stark contrast to more than a decade of inclusive practices and has left many Arkansans without a driver’s license that accurately reflects their gender identity, which can lead to significant psychological distress and expose them to discrimination, harassment, and violence.

“There is no ‘imminent peril’ created by recognizing and respecting a person’s affirmed gender identity, yet the DFA’s emergency rule has precipitated a true crisis for affected Arkansans,” said ACLU of Arkansas Executive Director Holly Dickson. “This rule is not safeguarding Arkansans; it's compromising their safety, their mental health, and their ability to participate fully in society.”

The legal action seeks:

• A declaratory judgment that the emergency rule is invalid due to its violation of administrative procedures and lack of any stated emergency.

• A preliminary and permanent injunction to halt the enforcement of the rule and to require the DFA to revert to the prior, inclusive policy.

The suit asserts that the emergency rule disregards the recognized medical consensus on the treatment of gender dysphoria, violates the privacy of individuals, and undermines the safety and well-being of all transgender, nonbinary, and intersex people. By forcing them into a narrow definition of gender, the rule not only causes harm to people but also contradicts the DFA’s long-standing practice of acknowledging the spectrum of gender identities.

The ACLU of Arkansas stands firm in its commitment to fighting for the rights and dignity of all Arkansans. This lawsuit seeks to hold agencies accountable when they attempt to impinge on Arkansans' rights and uphold the values of equality and non-discrimination enshrined in state and federal laws.

A copy of the complaint can be found here.