Texas' Attorney General Tried To Get Data On Transgender Texans–And Now He Won't Say Why
Records show AG Ken Paxton's office sought to learn the number of Texans who changed their sex on their driver's licenses.
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.
\u201cTerrifying news from The Washington Post this morning:\n\nThis past June, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton attempted to access driver's license records in order to create a list of transgender people in Texas. \n\nhttps://t.co/ueq8XF6on8\u201d— Charlotte Clymer (@Charlotte Clymer) 1671033052
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.
\u201cRecords obtained by @washingtonpost show that employees at the Texas Department of Public Safety were asked by Attorney General Ken Paxton\u2019s office to compile a list of everyone who changed their gender on a Texas driver\u2019s license over the past two years.\n\nhttps://t.co/iIoILjGyrW\u201d— Texas Tribune (@Texas Tribune) 1671387900
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."
\u201cAG Ken Paxton denies trying to get driver's license records of trans Texans, but there are receipts https://t.co/0DDMnrURFO\u201d— Daily Kos (@Daily Kos) 1671057096
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?”
\u201cWhy has Ken Paxton (TX AG) requested a list of people who\u2019ve changed the gender on their driver\u2019s license over the past 2 years? He has no business with this information. Without a doubt he\u2019s going to use it to harass trans people & promote hate. What can be done to stop this?\u201d— @ATXGirl (@@ATXGirl) 1671322565
\u201cThis is disgusting: TX AG Ken Paxton tried to use driver\u2019s license data to compile a list of people in the state are transgender. What a gross abuse of power for no apparent purpose than to harass law abiding Texans that he\u2019s prejudiced against. https://t.co/5UcRLmXZx8\u201d— James Slattery (@James Slattery) 1671028397
\u201canyone think that ken paxton, criminal AG in TX, wants to scare transpeople to leave TX when he wants things like lists of people who have changed their gender on driver licenses??\u201d— Thee MVP is so important and so capable (@Thee MVP is so important and so capable) 1671379670
\u201cWe find it a odd, and hypocritical, that Texas AG Ken Paxton is suing to protect privacy while simultaneously demanding that TX DPS secretly provide him with driver license records of transgender Americans in TX. \ud83e\udd37\ud83c\udffc\u200d\u2642\ufe0f\u201d— Rainbow Youth Project USA (@Rainbow Youth Project USA) 1671136459
Paxton’s office did not respond to the Post's requests for comment.