OMV will not change state policy regarding photo IDs - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

OMV will not change state policy regarding photo IDs

Source: WAFB Source: WAFB
BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) -

The Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles will not be changing the state policy regarding photo IDs, according to Col. Mike Edmonson, superintendent of Louisiana State Police.

"There is no reason that I see fit right now where the policy needs to be change," Edmonson said. "It allows discretion where they can ask a question. It doesn't allow discretion where I'm not going to take your picture. The only reason someone wouldn't would be if you wouldn't remove your sunglasses, remove a baseball cap, remove a mask that you put in front of your face. They're not going to allow it."

The policy was reviewed by two commissioners and two lawyers Wednesday after a self-identified transgender woman was denied an ID on Friday. Alexandra Glover was turned away for wearing makeup and a dress when she went to get replacement ID, while her birth certificate identified her as a male. 

Edmonson said Glover was not misrepresenting her identity and will now be able to get a photo ID while wearing her makeup and dress. He said that people should look like they do every day on their license even if that is non-traditional.

Edmonson said the current policy, which will remain in place, allows for clerks to question individuals about how they present themselves to help prevent fraud. 

"All we're trying to do is take a picture, a snapshot of how that person looks every day because you know, I've got to protect the identity and integrity of the driver's license picture itself, because it's much more than your ability to drive a car," Edmonson added.

He pointed out that photo IDs are used in transactions that involve monetary matters, such as renting an apartment and buying a house or car. 

Since 1986, state motor vehicle policy has stated the following: 

"Every application for driver's licenses and the license issued as a result of such application shall contain the photograph of the applicant. At no time will an applicant 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." 

Still, the decision to not change the policy is not without its critics. 

The ACLU of Louisiana sent a letter Thursday afternoon to OMV Commissioner Stephen Campbell urging a change to the policy for transgender people. 

"Louisiana has no legitimate interest in forcing someone to alter their appearance in order to satisfy stereotypes particularly when doing so will result in a photograph that bears little resemblance to the person," Marjorie R. Esman, executive director of the ACLU, stated in the letter.

In a phone interview, Esman said while fighting fraud is important, allowing the policy to stand as it is will allow for discrimination. She pointed to Glover’s trip to the OMV, which was captured on video.

"The clerk didn't ask is this how you look every day," Esman said. "The clerk said your birth certificate says you're male, so you can't come and get your picture taken the way you appear now."

"It's purely at the whim of whoever is on the other side of the camera," Esman added.

She said it ultimately all comes down to how the policy is applied. She called on Edmonson to introduce directives to clerks to help prevent discrimination. 

However, she admitted there is no perfect solution.

"This is purely arbitrary and if there are no standard criteria and there cannot be any, that would give anybody guidelines as to what it is that you’re supposed to look like when you go in to get your picture taken, then people need to be able to get their picture taken however they present," Esman explained.

The Baton Rouge-based Capital City Alliance called for the policy to be overturned. In an email, CCA Board Chair Jena Ourso wrote the following:

"We understand that proper identification is essential to public safety, however, we also understand that people who identify as transgender are representing their truest identity. The Supreme Court's marriage decision repeatedly mentioned how important self-expression is to liberty and well-being. Other states have faced First Amendment challenges to unwarranted restrictions on drivers license photos, and we hope the OMV will change its policy accordingly."

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