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World & Nation

Maryland to allow a ‘nonbinary’ gender option on voter registration and driver’s licenses

Maryland voter registration to allow for ‘X’ gender identity
The Maryland State Board of Elections will soon allow voters to choose “X” or “unspecified” as their gender, instead of male or female.
(John Gibbins / Tribune News Service)

The Maryland State Board of Elections will soon allow people to choose “X” or “unspecified” as a gender, instead of male or female, on their voter registration.

The move comes as the state Motor Vehicle Administration prepares to offer the third option for gender on driver’s licenses and state identification cards, in response to a new law.

Some lawmakers and advocates in the LGBTQ community have pushed for government agencies to recognize residents who are “nonbinary” — meaning they don’t identify as either male or female. Driver’s licenses and ID cards are particularly important to individuals who are nonbinary, as they are used frequently — not only for driving, but also for identification in banking, housing and employment.

A poll in March found lackluster support for the idea among Maryland voters, with just 37% favoring adding the gender-neutral option to licenses. Fifty-one percent of those polled were opposed.

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Still, state lawmakers passed a bill this year requiring the Motor Vehicle Administration to offer the option starting Oct. 1. The vote came largely along party lines, with mostly Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed. Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, allowed the measure to become law without his signature.

“I think that government forms should reflect the diversity of the people that the government is serving and representing, and this is one way of reflecting that,” said Del. Julie Palakovich Carr, a Montgomery County Democrat who asked state elections officials to consider making the corresponding change.

Palakovich Carr said she got the idea while taking a training class from Montgomery County elections officials for registering voters. The cities of Gaithersburg and Rockville have elections coming up this fall, and Palakovich Carr plans to register voters in hopes of boosting participation.

“In looking at the voter registration forms, I saw that gender is a required field and the only options are ‘M’ or ‘F,’” Palakovich Carr said.

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The state’s elections board voted unanimously at its meeting last week to authorize the elections staff to make the necessary changes, said David J. McManus Jr., the board chairman. There was no opposition, and no one raised concerns, he said.

Palakovich Carr said she was delighted.

“Hopefully, other agencies will take a look at their forms and be proactive about it too,” she said.

McManus said it made sense to follow the Motor Vehicle Administration’s lead in adding the “X” gender designation.

“We get a lot of voter registration applications from them. Even though the statute didn’t require us to do it, it made sense to make our application look as much like theirs,” he said.

Wood writes for the Baltimore Sun.


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