Bill would require photos on state driver's licenses

Thursday, December 11, 2003

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri would require photographs on all driver's licenses, and no veils or masks would be allowed, under legislation filed at the request of public safety officials.

Missouri currently issues licenses without photos to drivers who object on religious grounds to having their images displayed. In addition, temporary licenses without photos are issued for members of the military stationed outside Missouri.

The bill requiring unobscured photos on all licenses was filed last week by Sen. Harold Caskey, D-Butler, for consideration in the legislative session that starts Jan. 7. Caskey serves on the Joint Committee on Terrorism, Bioterrorism and Homeland Security and said the legislation was requested by state homeland security officials and the Highway Patrol.

Caskey said a Florida court case illustrated part of the need for the Missouri legislation.

A Muslim woman had gone to court after Florida revoked her driver's license because she refused to be photographed unveiled. Only her eyes had been visible on the photo on her previous license, with the rest of her face covered by a veil.

A Florida judge ruled for the state in June, agreeing with the state that allowing people to show only their eyes would undermine efforts to stop terrorists.

"This is extremely important for the protection of the citizenry of our state and it's been held by our courts that driving a car is a privilege, and not a right," he said. "The driver's license is to be utilized for identification purposes."

Caskey said he has not heard complaints from religious or civil liberties groups, but he expects to before the issue is decided.

Matt LeMieux, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri, said he had not reviewed the bill and had no stance on it, but would consider that the ACLU in Florida supported that woman's case.


Driver's license bill is SB874

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