(SHNS) -Lawmakers are optimistic they can pass a bill this session creating a non-binary gender option on state driver’s licenses, after a similar push failed last July.
Legislators and advocates described the matter as a civil rights issue during testimony before the Committee on Transportation, saying it’s time to allow all Massachusetts residents to carry identification that fully reflects themselves.
“People know what gender they are,” said Sen. Jo Comerford, a sponsor of the bill. “This bill simply allows their official documents to match how they self-identify. It allows for the Commonwealth to issue IDs as gender-diverse as our people.”
The proposal (H 3070 / S 2055) would create a third gender option – “x” – on licenses, permits and state IDs. The Senate version of the bill also allows parents and guardians to request a gender “x” designation on birth certificates, and it directs the attorney general’s office to submit a report on what other state forms require a gender listing and how they could be changed.
“The symbol of an x is a variable, and in this case, I wanted to be sure we could include all people,” said 17-year-old El Martinez, whose letter to now-Senate President Karen Spilka two years ago prompted legislation. “(The bill) is about granting transgender people the self-respect and autonomy to identify on these documents.”
Eight states — California, Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado, Maine, Indiana and Arkansas — as well as the District of Columbia offer a gender-neutral option on licenses, with varying certification requirements, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Massachusetts already allows changes to a driver’s listed identity, but only from one of the two options to the other.
“In Massachusetts, where we are and consider ourselves to be champions of LGBTQ rights, this is something we need to be pursuing,” Martinez said.
A similar bill drew support last year, passing in the Senate in June by a 36-1 vote. However, despite a last-minute push on the July 31 final day of formal sessions, the measure never emerged for a vote in the House.
Speaking outside the hearing Thursday, Rep. David Linsky blamed former Rep. Jim Lyons, who filed 29 amendments to the bill, in what Linsky described as an effort to “run out the clock.”
Spilka said she does not expect a similar issue this time around, noting the bill was filed early and came up for a committee hearing in March so there is time to allow amendments and a vote before the session’s end.
The state Registry of Motor Vehicles can make the change easily, she said, but supporters want the measure codified into state law to ensure it remains a permanent option.
“This is a really important state policy to have as an official state policy,” Spilka said. “For Massachusetts to show not only all of our residents, but the country and the world that we are a state that officially accepts people for who they are and that we are willing to change our documents, be introspective, and make changes to be welcoming.”