California legislature approves nonbinary gender markers on state IDs

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The California state legislature last night approved a bill that would make it easier to change gender markers on state-issued identification documents as well as create a gender-neutral, non-binary category in addition to “male” and “female.” Senate Bill 179, authored by Sens. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and sponsored by Equality California and the Transgender Law Center, would make California the second state in the country, after Oregon, to legally recognize a nonbinary gender.

“Many of us have an ID that matches our gender presentation, and so showing it is hassle-free,” said Sen. Atkins. “But for Californians who have an ID that does not match their gender presentation, showing it at airports, in shops or to law enforcement can be extremely stressful and lead to harassment or a delay in completing a transaction. It doesn’t need to be this way. SB 179 will make things a lot easier for our transgender, nonbinary and intersex friends and neighbors.”

“California is once again leading the way toward full equality for our LGBT community and a more inclusive society,” said Wiener. We need to make it easier for transgender and gender non-conforming people to live their lives as who they are, not who society says they’re supposed to be. In particular, our LGBT youth need to know that we support them and want them to succeed as their authentic selves.”

SB 179 would make it easier for transgender, intersex and non-binary people to get official identification documents that accurately reflect their gender identity. In addition to recognizing a nonbinary gender, this bill will streamline the process to change the gender marker or name on state-issued identification documents. Previously, individuals faced difficult and burdensome obstacles to change their identification documents, such as requirements that a person obtain a physician’s verification or that they appear in court, which ultimately made the process intimidating and added expenses that an individual might not have.

“The simple act of showing a driver license is something most of us take for granted, but it can be a dangerous act for people whose gender expression doesn’t necessarily match what’s on their ID,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. “SB 179 will make the process of getting government-issued identifications easier and safer for thousands of Californians.”

According to a 2015 national survey of 25,000 transgender people, only 11 percent reported that all their identification documents had their name and gender that is consistent with their gender identity, and one-third of respondents who showed an ID with a gender marker that did not match their appearance reported being verbally harassed, denied services or assaulted.

Atkins said Gov. Jerry Brown has supported equal rights for all people and hopes he will see SB 179 “in that vein.”

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