The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arkansas is celebrating a significant legal victory today, as a judge has ruled in favor of the ACLU and Arkansans in their case against the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) regarding its restrictive gender marker policy. This ruling marks a crucial step in upholding the rights and dignity of transgender, nonbinary, and intersex Arkansans.

The lawsuit, filed on April 30, 2024, challenged an emergency rule imposed by the DFA that severely restricted the ability of individuals to self-identify their gender on driver’s licenses. The rule required an amended birth certificate for any gender marker changes and completely abolished the “X” marker option, which had been available since at least 2010.

The judge’s decision invalidates the DFA’s emergency rule, citing the lack of any documented justification or compliance with the procedural requirements of the Arkansas Administrative Procedures Act. The court agreed with the ACLU’s argument that the DFA failed to demonstrate any urgent threat to public health or safety that would justify the sudden policy change. 

The decision requires DFA to revert to its previous policy of allowing transgender, nonbinary, and intersex Arkansans to self-select their gender marker without need for documentation. The injunction is in place unless and until the agency passes a permanent rule after notice-and-comment procedures. The agency has promulgated notice of a permanent rule. It will hold a hearing on that rule on June 7; written comments are open until June 27. 

John Williams, Legal Director of the ACLU of Arkansas, praised the ruling, stating: “This decision reaffirms the importance of due process and the necessity for public input in policy changes that significantly impact people’s lives. The DFA’s attempt to bypass these critical steps was a clear overreach, and we are pleased that the court has recognized the harm this policy inflicted on our plaintiffs and others in the community.”

JaVon Hansen, one of the plaintiffs in the case, expressed relief and optimism following the ruling: “This decision means so much to me and countless others who have been living in fear and uncertainty because of this unjust policy. It’s a step towards ensuring that our identities are respected and recognized, and that we can live our lives without unnecessary barriers.”

Previously, the DFA’s inclusive policy allowed Arkansans to self-select the gender marker on their driver’s licenses, reflecting a modern understanding of gender diversity. The abrupt policy shift in March 2024 disrupted this practice, causing significant psychological distress and exposing those affected to increased discrimination and harassment.

The ACLU of Arkansas will continue to advocate for the rights and dignity of all people, ensuring that state policies reflect the values of equality and non-discrimination enshrined in the state and federal constitutions.

Read more about Gallagher v. Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration here.