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Massachusetts Lawmaker Proposes Third Gender Option for Licenses

By: Ryan Gallagher November 20, 2017
Massachusetts may join California, Oregon, and Washington D.C. in allowing residents to select a third, or non-binary, gender option on driver's licenses and IDs.

Massachusetts legislators are considering a third gender option for driver’s licenses and identification cards, following in the footsteps of Oregon, California, and Washington D.C.

In October, Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) proposed “An Act Relative to Gender Identity on Massachusetts Identification.” This bill would require the state’s Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) to offer residents the option to mark their gender as non-binary, or “X,” to accommodate any person who may feel uncomfortable when selecting either “male” or “female” on legal documents.

The legislation was filed after Spilka received a letter from a 16-year-old constituent who was confused when choosing her gender as she applied for her driver’s license.

“She made a very compelling argument [for gender identity diversity],” Spilka said.

An agency spokeswoman stated that the RMV is already upgrading the computer system to allow online customers to indicate a non-binary gender designation.

While there are those who support the proposed law, others say the change could cause security and identification concerns.

“Licenses are used to identify the holder of that document,” said Andrew Beckwith, executive director of the conservative organization Massachusetts Family Institute. “I can't put that I weigh 175 pounds on it if I weigh 250 pounds, or 6-foot, 3-inches if I’m 5-foot, 3-inches, even if I want to be thinner or taller. This would place someone's sexual expression above other priorities of the law, which in this case is to identify people.”

Apart from the debate between gender identity being a matter of “sexual expression” versus biological wiring, lawmakers must decide whether or not a third gender option could hinder how individuals are identified using state-issued IDs. There has not been a statement regarding if and when the idea will be voted upon.

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