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Arkansas agency’s rule change on state IDs and gender prompts safety debate and pushback

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Arkansas agency’s rule change on state IDs and gender prompts safety debate and pushback



The emergency rule leaves only a narrow way to change sex on documents, which could itself soon be closed.

An emergency rule mandating that all Arkansas driver’s licenses and state ID cards show the bearer’s sex as it’s recorded on a birth certificate went into effect on Thursday after approval by the Arkansas Legislative Council.

Top officials at the Department of Finance and Administration, which issued the rule, say it accounts for a need for the police to know the sex of people they encounter. They invoked public safety as a core rationale for the policy change.

Transgender rights activists and the ACLU of Arkansas, however, are pushing back. They say the policy would likely lead to sex-based discrimination and threatens the safety and wellbeing of trans and gender non-conforming people in the state.

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A driver’s license, DFA Secretary Jim Hudson told the Arkansas Legislative Council on Thursday, “is a document that law enforcement relies upon, and if law enforcement cannot have confidence [in] information about the person they’re encountering, I do believe that is a public safety issue.”

“There is potential for confusion under the existing policy that we rescinded.”

State Sen. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock, disagreed.

“What you all are telling me is ‘we want law enforcement to have the most accurate information possible when they’re presented with a person,’ and to me, there’s no distinction between gender, height and weight on that, which are obviously also objectively verifiable.”

Height and weight on a state ID are self-reported, the same as gender was under the previous policy.

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Hudson and Assistant Commissioner Paul Gehring did not city specific problems with the then-current policy over the 14 years it had been in place, saying that the emergency rule change is proactive.

A ‘dangerous proposition’

Sarah Everett, director of policy at the ACLU of Arkansas, took issue with the idea of requiring IDs to show sex assigned at birth.

“They’re implying a couple of things,” Everett said in a Monday interview. “One is that law enforcement treats people differently based on sex, which is illegal, and that trans people are somehow inherently dangerous.”

U.S. Supreme Court precedent, she said, holds that discrimination based on gender expression is, legally speaking, sex-based discrimination.

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“Obviously there’s no basis,” Everett said, for the idea that police must know a person’s sex assigned at birth.

“It’s just it’s kind of a scary and dangerous proposition that trans people should be required to out themselves to law enforcement and anyone else who needs to see their identification,” she said.

“No officer is going to be confused when a woman hands him a driver’s license that says ‘F.’ But he may be confused and may react questionably at best if a woman hands him a driver’s license that says ‘male.’”

‘Going forward’

Since 2010, Arkansas has allowed ID holders to change the gender shown, without any questions asked, and to use the gender-neutral designation “X” in addition to “male” and female.”

Across the nation, 21 other states and the District of Columbia continue to allow state IDs to be marked “M,” “F” or “X.” The practice is also allowed on U.S. passports.

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From now on, people in Arkansas with a gender marker of “X” on their passport must choose between male or female on their state ID, Gehring said before the Legislative Council on Thursday.

All current licenses and IDs will remain valid until their printed expiration date regardless of the sex marker shown on them.

In Arkansas, there is no option to designate a newborn as intersex on a birth certificate or to later change one’s sex to anything besides male or female.

Gehring said that the previous policy of “no questions asked” changes to sex markers was based on a departmental memo, which was not codified in state law or agency rules.

The change, he said, seeks to ensure that everything on a state ID is based on existing documentation.

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The agency’s primary concern with the rule change was the X designation on a state ID, rather than male or female markers which differ from other documentation. This is because a marker of “X” is not “verifiable,” said Scott Hardin, a representative from the DFA.

But any sex markers that might differ from those on a person’s birth certificate, he said, are inherently unreliable and perhaps even inherently fraudulent.

Hardin said that the agency sees the issue of sex markers on state IDs as a pressing concern but that their emergency rule change was not made in response to existing problems on the ground or calls to action from the public or law enforcement.

The emergency rule, Hardin said, has “a sense of urgency” meant “to ensure nothing does happen going forward… [because] there’s a real possibility that something could happen if we’re not to address this.”

Wide-ranging consequences.

Max Calabotta, the Northwest Arkansas Coordinator at the trans rights advocacy group Intransitive, said that the consequences of a mismatch between a person’s outward appearance and the sex shown on their ID are wide-ranging.

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These can include “being misgendered and denied housing, being misgendered and then being mistreated in the hospital when you’re in crisis, being misgendered by a police officer who has a gun and potentially the power to kill you.”

“I have a beard and I have a deep voice,” he said. “You don’t need to know anything else, none of the rest of how my body works.”

The new rule, he said, means that the only option for people to change the gender marker on their ID would likely cost many thousands of dollars in a complex and difficult process.

Under the new rules, Arkansas state IDs can only show male or female and that must match the sex on the holder’s birth certificate. It isn’t impossible for a transitioning person to change the sex on their birth certificate, but the bar to do so is set very high.

It can be changed by court order only after sex reassignment surgery. “Normally an attorney is needed for this type of action,” notes an explanation on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website.

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The combination of medical bills and legal fees that are pre-requisites for obtaining a driver’s license with a different name or sex means a heavy burden for a bureaucratic process that’s practically free in other places.

Adding to this, transgender and gender non-conforming people are far more likely than the general population to be living below the poverty line, according to data from the University of California-Los Angeles, putting transition therapy, let alone legal counsel, far out of reach.

By contrast, for Calabotta, who was born in New York State and moved to Arkansas as a young child, there were no such hoops for them to jump through when changing the sex on their birth certificate.

“I just had to fill out a form and send them I didn’t have to provide a bunch of proof.”

Everett said that even this less attainable loophole could itself be in danger of further restrictions or even elimination.

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“The only reason we haven’t seen an attack on that yet is because we’re not in a regular legislative session,” she said, noting that there are legislative bills in other states seeking to restrict that process.

Everett said that the ACLU of Arkansas’ policy is not to announce any potential legal action they might take until after filing a complaint, but that they are “looking at our options when it comes to litigation.”

An emergency rule like this only stays in effect for three months. Hardin said the DFA is already in the process of drafting a permanent rule change which will allow for a 30-day public comment period.



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Arkansas Pie Festival returns April 27 – Talk Business & Politics

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Arkansas Pie Festival returns April 27 – Talk Business & Politics


The Arkansas Pie Festival is set to return to Cherokee Village, Ark., on Saturday (April 27) as a partner of the World Food Championship, the biggest Food Sport event in the world.

As an official qualifying event for WFC, the Arkansas Pie Festival will award one Golden Ticket to its champion making them eligible to compete in the Dessert category at the international cooking tournament this fall.

It will host a competition between commercial pie makers, home chefs, and students. Judges and attendees will be able to sample pies of all varieties before crowning a people’s choice and champion baker. Pies will also be displayed and auctioned to support the Spring River Innovation Hub.

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“The Arkansas Pie Festival is back and bigger than ever”, said festival co-founder and Cherokee Village community developer Jonathan Rhodes. “We’ve seen the excitement building around the local community and throughout the state thanks to our partners like The World Food Championship. The Arkansas Pie Festival gives us an opportunity to promote Arkansas, bring people together in Cherokee Village and support our small businesses. And…who doesn’t love pie?”

In addition to pie tasting, festival goers will enjoy live music entertainment on the FNBC Stage, food trucks, pie eating contests, shopping at the Arkansas Pie Pop-up Shop and the opportunity to meet Miss Arkansas 2023 Cori Keller. The festival also includes a Pie Day 5K race sponsored by White River Health and the Pie Fest Pup Parade.

Kat Robinson, Arkansas travel writing and leading authority on pie, serves as Festival co-chair. Kat has written a book oabout Arkansas Pie, “A Delicious Slice of the Natural State,” and recently released a second edition, “Another Slice of Arkansas Pie.”

Robinson will be available to sign her guides and other Arkansas food-related books. Robinson will lead judging with a host of Arkansas celebrities including Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice John Dan Kemp, Director of Arkansas Tourism Dalaney Thomas, and Arkansas Democrat Gazette Restaurant Writer Eric Harrison.

Festival proceeds will support STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) programming and education through the community’s Spring River Innovation Hub.

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Another one | Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

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Another one | Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette


FAYETTEVILLE — The No. 14 University of Arkansas softball team scored seven runs in the first inning and Morgan Leinstock pitched a shutout Sunday to defeat No. 15 Alabama 8-0 in five innings Sunday in the rubber match of the series at Bogle Park.

The Razorbacks (32-12, 11-7 SEC) won their fourth consecutive series, all of which have come against ranked opponents and followed the same pattern — win, loss, win.

Arkansas previously won series over Georgia, Missouri and South Carolina.

“It’s a matchup of toughness,” Arkansas Coach Courtney Deifel said of rubber matches. “It’s a matchup of response. It’s a matchup, for us, a situation we’ve been in winning the series last four times.

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“It’s coming off the loss on Saturday and having to respond and grab the momentum back. … It just continues to show their toughness and their grit and their character. It’s a sport of series and when you win the series and you find a way to win two of the three, it’s huge. And so I’m just really proud of them.”

The Razorbacks recorded their first run-rule victory since winning 8-0 in five innings at Texas A&M-Commerce on March 18.

Alabama (31-12, 8-10) lost its second series in a row and was defeated by the Razorbacks in a rubber match for the second consecutive season. Arkansas took series over Alabama in back-to-back years for the first time.

The Razorbacks scored two runs in the series entering Sunday’s game, but were able to chase Alabama ace Kayla Beaver in the first inning with an onslaught of runs.

Arkansas sent 12 batters to the plate in the inning. The seven runs surrendered by Beaver, a graduate transfer from Central Arkansas, tied her career high and her most this season.

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“She doesn’t have many innings like that,” Deifel said. “She doesn’t have many outings like that. … And it looked a lot of ways. It wasn’t just like we were teeing off: it was a dribbler that we beat out, it was the home run, it was the flare hit, it was the walks and it was not stretching our zones and just doing whatever it took to pass the bat.

“She is a very, very talented pitcher and competitor and we knew that it was going to take a relentless approach to get to her.”

First baseman Bri Ellis began the scoring with a two-run home run deep over the wall in left-center field on the game’s third at-bat. Ellis’ 14th homer, which leads the team and ranks third in the SEC, put Arkansas ahead 2-0.

“I myself knew I had to make an adjustment because I just haven’t really been feeling at my best these past few games,” Ellis said. “I did the best I could in pregame to make any kind of adjustment and just kind of slow it down, do a little less.

“I knew what pitches I was going to get, and I knew that the best pitch I was going to see out of her hand was a screwball or whatever it is she’s throwing on the inside half. I knew that I wasn’t going to have success with the outer-half drop ball so I was letting those go, and after two of those came, I kind of had a feeling I was going to get something inside for a strike. So I was sitting on that pitch and I got it.”

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After a base hit by Kennedy Miller and a pair of walks loaded the bases, Rylin Hedgecock shot a single to right-center field on the first pitch she saw to score two runs. Arkansas extended its lead to 5-0 on the next at-bat when a wild pitch by Beaver scored Raigan Kramer from third base.

Two walks issued by Beaver loaded the bases again for the Razorbacks and forced a pitching change.

Jaala Torrence relieved Beaver. Nia Carter blooped a two-run single off Torrence to shallow left-center field, which was lost in the sun by Alabama shortstop Kenleigh Cahalan and gave the Razorbacks a 7-0 lead.

The big first inning came less than 16 hours after Alabama scored five runs during the fifth inning of Game 2 to defeat Arkansas and even the series. It was an emotional game for the Razorbacks, marred by an apparent missed call that led to Alabama’s big fifth.

“It was an emotional game last night,” Deifel said. “It was a frustrating game and it was a late game. … I know I didn’t sleep much last night with a quick turnaround and just the feel of the game last night. And so for them to show up ready to go, ready to make a statement and ready to respond, it was huge.”

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Leinstock, who pitched nine scoreless innings during the Razorbacks’ 1-0 series opening victory Friday, tossed another shutout. The right-handed graduate transfer from Southern Miss allowed 3 hits, 1 walk and struck out 5 to record her 12th victory.

“She’s a fighter in every sense of the word,” Deifel said of Leinstock. “For her to just set the tone in the first inning, make a statement throughout the game, and our defense have her back … it’s just really special.”

Torrence pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings for Alabama before she was replaced by Alea Johnson to begin the fourth.

A single by Carter and double off the wall in center field by Cylie Halvorson gave the Razorbacks runners in scoring position with one out. Hannah Gammill extended Arkansas’ lead to 8-0 a sacrifice fly heading into the fifth.

Leinstock and the Razorbacks’ defense stranded an Alabama runner at second base in the fifth inning to protect the eight-run lead and enforce a run rule.

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“It’s a game of mindset,” Deifel said. “It’s a game of, ‘How are we going to reset our mindset? How are we going to respond? How are we going to show up when things aren’t going how we want them to?’

“In softball, you have a lot of practice in that. Now this one had a lot more emotion to it, but for them to just start the day new and want to control what we can control — and I keep saying it — I’m just really proud of their response from last night to today.”

The Razorbacks recorded eight hits and drew five walks against Alabama’s pitchers. Carter led Arkansas with a 3-for-3 performance at the plate and tied Ellis and Hedgecock with a team-high two RBI.

Arkansas is scheduled to begin a three-game series at No. 7 LSU at 6 p.m. Central on Friday on SEC Network-Plus.



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Former Arkansas men’s basketball star Bobby Portis is a finalist for NBA Sixth Man of the Year | Whole Hog Sports

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Former Arkansas men’s basketball star Bobby Portis is a finalist for NBA Sixth Man of the Year | Whole Hog Sports


FAYETTEVILLE — Former Arkansas men’s basketball forward Bobby Portis was named a finalist for the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award on Sunday. 

Portis, who has been a standout performer with the Milwaukee Bucks this season, averages 13.8 points and 7.4 rebounds.

The other two finalists are Minnesota Timberwolves forward Naz Reid and Sacramento Kings guard Malik Monk, who graduated from Bentonville High School and played for new Arkansas coach John Calipari at Kentucky. The finalists were announced on TNT prior to a first-round playoff game between the Bucks and Indiana Pacers. 

Should Portis win, he would be the second former Razorback to win the award following Corliss Williamson in 2002.

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Portis, who is from Little Rock, led a storied Arkansas career. He was named SEC Player of the Year in 2015, becoming the first Razorback to earn the title since Williamson won back-to-back awards in 1994 and 1995. He was a finalist for national player of the year following his sophomore campaign and was a second-team All-American.

He was selected by the Chicago Bulls with the 22nd overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. Since then, he has played for the Bulls, Washington Wizards, New York Knicks and the Bucks. 

He won the 2021 NBA championship with Milwaukee.



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