ALBANY, N.Y. – Nonbinary New Yorkers will soon be able to mark their gender designation as “X” — rather than “M” for male or “F” for female — on their New York driver’s license thanks to a new state law.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Gender Recognition Act into law Thursday after the New York legislature approved it earlier this month, clearing the way for the Department of Motor Vehicles to offer the “X” designation for nonbinary people.
The new law also makes it easier for transgender individuals to change their names without discrimination by removing a requirement for New Yorkers to publish their name change, address, birthplace and birthdate in a newspaper within 60 days of the change.
They can also ask to seal related documents because of the risk of violence or discrimination.
The law also lays out a streamlined process for changing names or gender identities on a birth certificate.
Cuomo signed the bill on the 10-year anniversary of same-sex marriage becoming law in New York, a milestone moment for the LGBTQ rights movement.
“Gender recognition is the next step forward,” Cuomo said at an event in Manhattan. “The Gender Recognition Act eliminates barriers that undermine the health, safety and equality of people because of their gender. It affirms basic human dignity.”
The Assembly voted Wednesday afternoon in favor of the bill, which would allow driver's license applicants to use valid foreign documents — including foreign-issued passports — to verify their identity with the Department of Motor Vehicles. (Photo: File photo)
The Assembly approved the bill by a 113-36 vote on June 10, while the Senate voted 46-17 on June 8.
The new law takes effect in 180 days. An “X” designation had already been allowed on birth certificates.
“I am proud of our progress on LGBTQ rights in the last 10 years and am deeply honored to continue that work with the Gender Recognition Act, which will make life safer for trans individuals, reduce stigma and affirm trans individuals’ identities,” Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, a sponsor of the bill, said in a statement.
The law comes as the state has faced criticism from some in the LGBTQ community in recent months for government applications that force people to choose male or female as their sex designation.
Nearly two-thirds of transgender New Yorkers said none of their IDs had their correct name and gender identity in a 2015 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality.
In March, the New York Civil Liberties Union and Legal Services of NYC sued the state Office of Temporary Disability Assistance because the agency’s computer application — which is used for food assistance, Medicaid and other benefits — didn’t offer a nonbinary option.
“The Gender Recognition Act won’t just allow people to access accurate identity documents,” New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement. “It will bring an end to the government-sanctioned stigma, red tape, and discrimination that has accompanied New Yorkers seeking identity documents that reflect who they are for far too long.”
Contributing: Christine Fernando, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
Follow Jon Campbell on Twitter at @JonCampbellGAN.
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