According to The Washington Post, Republican state Attorney General Ken Paxton's office tried to obtain data on how many Texans changed their gender on their driver's licenses. The behind-the-scenes efforts came as Paxton and other Republican leaders were gathering resources to attack transgender Texans.
Paxton made headlines before for his efforts on behalf of former Republican President Donald Trump to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. The MAGA rally attending Texas AG filed a lawsuit to block Democrat Joe Biden’s decisive win in both the popular and electoral votes.
Texas via Paxton sued in December 2020 challenging election results in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin on the basis those states implemented pandemic-related changes to their election procedures. Paxton claimed the changes were illegal.
The states involved disputed Paxton’s jurisdiction to question their voting processes. The Supreme Court agreed and threw out the Texas lawsuit.
In May 2022, the Texas state bar filed a professional misconduct lawsuit against Paxton for his attempts to overturn 2020 presidential election.
But the AG was apparently undeterred.
In June the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) received a request from Paxton’s office to compile a list of individuals who changed their gender on their Texas driver’s license and on any other department records since 2020.
Chief of Texas' DPS emailed employees on June 30, 2022:
"Need total number of changes from male to female and female to male for the last 24 months, broken down by month."
"We won’t need DL/ID numbers at first but may need to have them later if we are required to manually look up documents."
After over 16,000 changes were identified, DPS officials decided a manual search would be needed to find the reason for each change—clerical or filing error versus trans individual—before accurate records could be turned over to AG Paxton according to DPS spokesman Travis Considine.
Considine wrote in an email to The Washington Post:
"A verbal request was received [from Paxton’s office.]"
"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."
Texas' GOP leadership has an extensive history of attacks against trans rights in addition to his election denying efforts.
In October 2021, Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill banning transgender youth in K-12 public schools from participating in sports in alignment with their gender identity. In 2022, Abbott ordered the state to investigate gender-affirming care as child abuse.
The Republican controlled state legislature proposed more than a dozen anti-LGBTQ+ bills before the next session begins in January which includes outlawing gender-affirming care and banning minors attending drag shows.
In 2021 the legislature failed to pass a law to criminalize gender confirmation care. Major medical associations deem gender-affirming and gender confirmation to be science-based medical care.
In response Republican state Representative Matt Krause asked Paxton to intervene. Paxton issued a legal opinion gender-affirming care for people under the age of 18 could be considered child abuse.
Governor Abbott then directed Texas' child welfare agency to investigate parents seeking or receiving such care for their children leading to several investigations within days according to public records. However agency staff members were told not to communicate in writing about Abbott's directive in memos, emails and texts.
Some families sued with Doe v. Abbott winning a temporary statewide injunction in blocking the investigations until the lawsuit reached the state Supreme Court in May. The SCOTUS overturned the injunction on procedural grounds but found Paxton’s legal opinion was nonbinding and Abbott lacked the authority to make child welfare staff members initiate child abuse investigations of families with trans children.
Austin attorney Ian Pittman who represents Texas parents of transgender children said of Paxton’s DPS request:
"This is another brick building toward targeting these individuals."
"They’ve already targeted children and parents. The next step would be targeting adults."
"And what better way than seeing what adults had had their sex changed on their driver’s licenses?”
Paxton’s office did not respond to the Post's requests for comment.