Gender-Neutral ID bill on Senate agenda

Marcony Almeida

ID

The Senate plans next week to take up legislation that has become a signature priority for Senate President Karen Spilka, a bill that would allow an adult to change state identification records to reflect a gender of “X.”

According the State House News Service, the so-called “Gender X” bill would require the Registry of Motor Vehicles to make a third, gender-neutral option available to applicants for a license or learner’s permit and would allow anyone over 18, an emancipated minor or the parents of a minor to request a change in the sex listed on someone’s birth certificate to male, female or X. “This bill is very special to me,” Spilka said earlier this month during an interview on WGBH radio.

The Senate president got involved after receiving a letter from a constituent who was feeling stress as they prepared to decide which box to check on their driving learner’s permit. The Ashland Democrat has since grown close to the family while working on this bill, and almost pushed it across the finish line last year.

“It is simply about letting people be who they are and I believe it’s a civil rights issue,” Spilka said. 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, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.

The Senate version of the “Gender X” bill goes further by allowing for the possibility of making a similar change to a birth record. “We’ll see where that goes,” Spilka said recently. Town clerks and other officials also would be prohibited from requiring medical or health care documentation or a court order to make the change.

A similar bill drew support last year, passing in the Senate in June by a 36-1 vote. Despite a last-minute push on the July 31 final day of formal sessions, the measure never emerged for a vote in the House.

Spilka has said she thinks the bill has a better chance this session of passing both the House and the Senate, and she believes Gov. Charlie Baker will sign it if the bill reached his desk.

“I think he’s fine with it. We’ve talked about it. The RMV is ready to roll with this,” she said during her WGBH appearance, explaining that the registry already has an option with its software to add a third box with no extra programming costs.

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