The Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles is not changing its photograph rules after a transgender woman said she was denied a driver’s license because she didn’t look male, although a day earlier the agency’s leader said he would review the policy.
But State Police Col. Mike Edmonson, who supervises the OMV, said the agency would allow transgender people to get their photo taken as they appear in their day-to-day lives.
The question of how the OMV treats transgender people was raised by 21-year-old Alexandra Glover, whose viral video showed an OMV clerk in Baton Rouge telling her last week she needed to remove her makeup because she is “actually a man.”
Glover objected, saying she wanted her photo to look the way she normally does. She wasn’t looking to change her gender identification on the license, which would still indicate M for male.
A 1986 OMV photo policy prohibits someone applying for a driver’s license to “be photographed when it is obvious he/she is misrepresenting his/her gender and/or purposely alternating his/her appearance in an effort which would ‘misguide/misrepresent’ his/her identity.” Transgender advocates called Louisiana’s rule too open to interpretation, saying an individual clerk could make it hard for people to get an ID that reflects their everyday appearance.
Edmonson said the existing rule that drivers are not allowed to “misrepresent” their gender still stands, but he will make sure OMV employees are trained in determining the difference between a person who is dressed deceptively and someone who simply doesn’t conform to gender norms.
“This is how this individual looks every day,” Edmonson said about Glover.
But Edmonson stopped short of saying the OMV employee made a mistake, saying he encourages clerks to ask questions of applicants. Edmonson said Glover left before the matter could be fully resolved. The clerk, who remains unidentified, will not be disciplined, he said.
Glover said she did not want to comment on the situation Thursday.
OMV Commissioner Stephen Campbell on Wednesday said the Glover incident had prompted the agency to take an immediate look at revising the policy but then dialed back. Instead, he said later, the OMV would review the photograph rules and could not guarantee a rewrite.
Edmondson said Campbell misspoke in his original statement.
After looking at the issue, the State Police leader said he didn’t see a reason to revise the rules.
“I’ve looked at the whole matter, and I don’t see the need to change the policy,” Edmondson said.
Matt Patterson, with the Louisiana Trans Advocates, applauded the agency for allowing transgender people to get their photos taken appearing as they would prefer. But he said the group will continue to urge OMV to codify that interpretation “into a written policy.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana sent a letter Thursday to Campbell stressing that the agency should tweak its policies “as quickly as possible, to allow individuals to receive licenses reflecting their true identities.”
Campbell on Thursday said Edmondson’s comments spoke for him.
Follow Maya Lau on Twitter, @mayalau.