Oklahoma, this is not OK

Last week, the Oklahoma House passed H.B. 1645 which states that you can’t cover your head in your driver’s license photo for any reason:

Hats, head scarves, head garments, bandanas, prescription … glasses … are strictly prohibited and shall not be worn by the licensee or cardholder when being photographed for a license or identification card.

It means that religious Sikhs, Jews, Muslims and others who wear religious head covering will have to choose between their faith and their ability to travel.

The legislation was proposed in a fit of pique, after the Oklahoma Department of Transportation reversed itself and allowed a young hijabi woman to have her license photo taken with her head scarf on and her face clearly visible, but without her hair showing.


p>Represenative Rex Duncan was so incensed by this that he took over a different bill, with a different purpose, and “hijacked it” to create requirements that the bureaucracy says it doesn’t need, that it will have to defend in court, and that don’t really make a lot of practical sense.

Why don’t I think the bill makes sense? Imagine that I actually did what the law wanted (which I wouldn’t, I would leave the state) and got my photo taken with a naked head. Do you think that a cop would find it easier to recognize me with my glasses and turban from a photograph of me with my hair down and my beard unfurled, man on the cross ishtyle? How about the TSA person at the gate at Tulsa airport?

The bill is also inconsistent. If the legislature seriously believes that hair is a critical part of identification, this is what they would have to do:

  • Mandate no toupees or hairplugs or extensions — sorry, Represenative, but you have to go baldy now
  • Mandate no changes to facial hair
  • Mandate no changes in hair color or style — sorry Represenative, but your wife can’t color that grey out, and your daughter who had long brown hair can’t drive now that she has short pink hair unless she had the photo taken with the short pink hair, in which case you have to live with it from now on
  • Mandate that any time somebody does change hair color or style they have to have their photo retaken
  • Apply the bill retroactively, so that everybody whose appearance has changed at all since their photo was taken has to get a new ID

Can you imagine? The hairdresser’s lobby would kill that bill deader than a combover on a red carpet!

Here’s a petition in opposition to the bill. Right now, the bill is in limbo, since the Senate sponsor has backed down after talking to the transportation bureaucracy and finding out that they don’t actually want these changes. I’m hoping the pressure keeps it that way, and that they recognize that they will face opposition if they proceed with their hair-brained (sic) scheme.

53 thoughts on “Oklahoma, this is not OK

  1. 50 · Manju said

    when have they been arbitrarily barred?

    i didn’t say they have been barred, i said scalia explicitly lays the groundwork for the future.

    what one letter?


  2. i didn’t say they have been barred, i said scalia explicitly lays the groundwork for the future.

    i think you’re going by someone else’s interpretation of scalia’s opinion. even if we were to concede, and this is a big if, that his denial of an establishment clause violation rests on one washington letter, it does not follow that the free exercise rights of other religions or non-religions relies on that groundwork. scalia’s own words regarding non-jeodeo-christian beliefs from the link you cite:

    The beliefs of those citizens are entirely protected by the Free Exercise Clause, and by those aspects of the Establishment Clause that do not relate to government acknowledgment of the Creator.