Bill Would Ban Headwear on Driver’s License Photos

John Lauritsen, WCCO-TV (Minneapolis), March 1, 2009

Most people don’t like their driver’s license picture, but if a state lawmaker has his way, one group of Minnesotans said they are going to like theirs even less. State Rep. Steve Gottwalt of St. Cloud is trying to pass a bill that would ban any kind of headwear worn on a driver’s license pictures.

Gottwalt said it is a matter of safety to help law enforcement identify people easier. However, people in the Muslim community said covering their heads is their religious right.

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[Suban] Khalif and Hindia Ali are Muslim women. As part of their faith, they wear a head scarf nearly 24 hours a day. To take it off, for even a few minutes, is a big deal. That is why the women are so opposed to Gottwalt’s bill. They think their faces are enough to identify them.

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“My facial expressions, my face, my nose, my eyes should be clearly enough for any person to tell us apart,” Ali agreed.

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“It’s really not about religion at all. It’s about public safety,” said Gottwalt.

Gottwalt said the motivation for this bill came from law enforcement. He said it is not about singling anyone out, it is about keeping headwear off everyone’s driver’s license picture in order to make it fair, and to make it easier for police.

“We’ve heard law enforcement people tell us about gangbangers wearing their hats differently and those kinds of things that kind of get in the way of quickly identifying who this person is,” said Gottwalt.

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Gottwalt’s bill allows for some exceptions. If a person has a deformity or a medial condition that requires headwear, then they can wear it for their driver’s license picture. Gottwalt said he is hoping to get a committee hearing for the bill soon. The state of Alabama is considering similar legislation.

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