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California Legislature

California Democrats propose adding third, nonbinary gender option for driver's licenses and other official documents

California driver's licenses and birth certificates could have a third option for gender in addition to male or female under legislation unveiled Thursday by Democratic lawmakers.

The bill by state Sens. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) would establish a new nonbinary gender marker for official state documents.

Lawmakers framed the measure as an expansion of rights for transgender, intersex and other people who do not identify as male or female.

"It will keep California at the forefront of LGBTQ civil rights," Atkins said at a Capitol news conference.

The bill, SB 179, also would streamline the process for people to change their gender on such documents. It would remove the requirement that an individual obtain a sworn statement from a physician certifying medical treatment for gender transition. It also would create a process for people younger than 18 to apply for a change of gender on their birth certificate.

Jo Michael, of Equality California, a gay rights advocacy group, said the bill had personal resonance. Michael identifies as transgender and nonbinary.

"For the first time, Californians like me could have accurate gender markers that truly reflect who we are," Michael said.

Wiener said the proposal places California in stark relief to other states in the country, including North Carolina, where a high-profile law regulating transgender people's use of public bathrooms roiled the state.

"As the LGBT community — but especially the trans community — is under assault in this country, California needs to go in the opposite direction and embrace the trans community and support the trans community and modernize these laws," he said.

The legislation does not specify what the alternate gender marker would be, but other countries that have implemented such a policy, such as Australia and New Zealand, have used the letter "X" alongside "M" for male and "F" for female, according to Sasha Buchert of the Transgender Law Center.

Atkins, who is a lesbian and a member of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus, said this proposal marks an "evolution" for her in better understanding the concerns of the transgender and intersex community. She authored a law in 2014 that ensures death certificates reflect a person's gender identity, an experience she said made her more aware of the bureaucratic hurdles that transgender people often face.

This year's bill, she said, "is moving us forward into a new world, where acceptance is ... letting people be who they tell you they are."

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