Report: Texas AG sought driver license data on gender change

Dec 14, 2022, 1:05 AM | Updated: 3:18 pm

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The office of Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton this summer sought data on how many people had changed the gender information on their driver’s license, according to a newspaper report published Wednesday that civil rights attorneys described as worrying.

The Washington Post reported that public records obtained by the newspaper do not indicate why Paxton’s office made the request to the Texas Department of Public Safety. The head of the driver’s license division told colleagues in June to compile the “total number of changes from male to female and female to male for the last 24 months.”

A DPS spokesperson told the Post that no data was ultimately handed over because it could not be accurately produced.

Paxton’s office did not return a message seeking comment Wednesday from The Associated Press.

Texas Republicans for years have been at the forefront of efforts to restrict transgender rights. The request came months after Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered child welfare officials to investigate gender-affirming care as child abuse, a move that Paxton’s office backed in a legal opinion.

DPS found over 16,000 gender changes over the past two years, but officials said a manual search would have been required to determine the reason for each one. According to records obtained by the Post, DPS staff members repeatedly referred to the request as coming from the attorney general’s office as they discussed attempting to narrow the data to include only licenses that had been altered to reflect a court-ordered change in someone’s gender.

“A verbal request was received,” DPS spokesman Travis Considine told the Post. “Ultimately, our team advised the AG’s office the data requested neither exists nor could be accurately produced. Thus, no data of any kind was provided.”

Brian Klosterboer, an attorney at the ACLU of Texas, said this request of information was “highly unusual” and a violation of privacy.

“We suspect that this kind of data inquiry is an attempt to create information to further restrict and curtail the rights of transgender people living in Texas,” Klosterboer told AP.

Abbott has followed other Republican governors in signing legislation that bans transgender youth from participating in public school sports teams that do not align with their sex assigned at birth.

Texas Republicans have also filed legislation to prohibit a change of sex on birth certificates for minors, following in the steps of states that include neighboring Oklahoma, where Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt this year signed a law prohibiting the use of nonbinary gender markers on state birth certificates

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Report: Texas AG sought driver license data on gender change