BOSTON (AP) — Those seeking state driver’s licenses in Massachusetts are closer to being able to designate their gender as “X” instead of “male” or “female.”
The state Senate has overwhelmingly approved a bill that would allow for the nonbinary designation on licenses.
The proposed change would also apply to learner’s permits and state identification cards.
The Massachusetts Senate approved the bill Thursday on a 36-1 vote.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Karen Spilka, who said the proposal recognizes the rights of transgender individuals.
“Everyone should be free to live their lives in the way they feel most comfortable,” the Ashland Democrat said. “For those who do not fit neatly into the traditional categories of ‘male’ or ‘female,’ a nonbinary option is a simple way to ensure their ID matches their true lived gender identity.”
Democratic Senate President Harriette Chandler called the measure “a common sense policy for modern-day Massachusetts.”
Spilka, who is in line to replace Chandler as the new Senate president next month, said she decided to file the bill after hearing from a constituent urging her to push for the change.
The bill requires the Registry of Motor Vehicles to allow an applicant for a driver’s license, learner’s permit or ID card to choose “X” instead of “male or “female.” The bill also prohibits the agency from requiring documentation for such designation.
The new rules would take effect Nov. 1. The bill now heads to the House.
Andrew Beckwith of the Massachusetts Family Institute opposed the bill.
“Drivers’ licenses and other forms of ID are legal documents intended to reflect objective facts, like height, date of birth, current address, and sex. They are not designed to be tools for the fulfilment of someone’s sexual expression,” Beckwith said. “I’m sure there are plenty of people who would rather not have their true height or age listed on their license, but that’s irrelevant.”
Massachusetts wouldn’t be the first to adopt the nonbinary option. A handful of states, including California, Oregon and Maine as well as Washington, D.C., already allow the gender X designation on driver’s licenses.
Some states have also begun allowing people to change the gender on their birth certificates to X or nonbinary. In Oregon, students will be able to select a nonbinary gender option starting next school year.
Earlier this month the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles announced it would begin offering the option of a gender-neutral designation on driver licenses and identification cards.
The decision to make such an option available was reached on May 10 through a mediation process after a complaint was filed with the Maine Human Rights Commission. The process involves filling out a form called a “gender designation form.” A sticker will be issued for the license or ID card that says: “Gender has been changed to X — Nonbinary.” Right now the cards can only say “M” for male or “F” for female.
The passage of the bill in the Massachusetts Senate comes on the heels of a 2016 state law barring discrimination on the basis of gender identity in public accommodations. The law allows transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identities.
The law is the subject of a repeal effort.
Voters in November will be asked whether they support doing away with the law or oppose repealing the law.