Bare-head bill clarified: headscarves A-ok

Image courtesy of BohPhoto on Flickr
State Rep. Steve Gottwalt (R-St. Cloud) says Muslim women can still wear headscarves, Sikh men their turbans, in their driver's license photos, under a bill he has introduced.

Earlier this week, Gottwalt's bill provoked an angry response from a Somali student group who saw it as unfairly persecuting people who wear religious head garb.

Thursday Gottwalt issued a press release with amendments to his bill that make clear that the rules for Minnesota state driver's licenses will mirror the federal rules for passport photos.

"We were never intending to offend, or to prohibit the kind of headwear that people require under Muslim law," Gottwalt says.

Gottwalt's motivation for the bill came from public safety agencies troubled by non-identifying driver's license photos. "People who were wearing cowboy hats, baseball hats, bandannas, and the police coming back and saying this is not helpful," he says. "There was a clear public safety request."

Here are the regulations that the amended text of the bill would include:

* Include a full face, front view and open eyes

* Make sure photo presents full head from top of hair to shoulders

* Take the photo on a plain white or off-white background

* Avoid shadows on the face or background

* Face in photo should have a natural expression (closed mouth)

* Photos should not include sunglasses or hats

* The contrast and lighting in the photo should be normal

The bill has been introduced in the legislature but not yet acted on.