Report: Texas AG sought data on transgender residents

[CUOMO]

(NewsNation) — The Texas attorney general sought to collect information about residents who changed their gender on their driver’s license, according to a newspaper report published Wednesday that advocates described as worrying.

The Washington Post reported that public records obtained by the newspaper do not indicate why Attorney General Ken 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.

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.

Abbott’s directive prompted lawsuits, including one filed by Texas attorney Ian Pittman. He represents families who were subject to the child welfare investigations.

“He has proven himself not to be an ally of many communities, and perhaps chief among those is the transgender community. I think it’s pure naked partisan politics,” Pittman said of Paxton’s intentions for obtaining the driver license data. “He has shown his true colors over and over again, and when somebody tells you who they are, I think you should believe them. He has used what power he has for political purposes.”

Pittman spoke about the report Wednesday on “CUOMO” and was joined by Meghan Stabler, a transgender rights advocate. Stabler transitioned in 2004 and said the process of changing documents was difficult back then and hasn’t gotten any easier.

“This is sort of a nefarious collection of data for a use that we don’t know yet,” Stabler said. “The bad intent of the ask from the AG’s office has multiple implications on the lives of trans adults or even trans teenagers … and we don’t know where it’s going. It is a very dire state for trans people in the state of Texas.”

DPS found more than 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.

Referencing the “lavender scare” that occurred in mid-to-late 1900s, Stabler is worried about where actions like the ones being taken in Texas could lead.

“For trans people, generally we want to be safe in society,” Stabler said. “It is a human issue that is impacting the mental health of kids, but also the mental health of trans adults, as well.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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