June 11 (UPI) — State legislators in New York on Thursday passed a bill to allow New Yorkers to identify their sex on state-issued identification with an “x” and make it easier to change government documents among other changes to civil rights law that LBGTQ groups say is a victory for transgender and non-binary residents.
The Gender Recognition Act passed the New York State Assembly on Thursday, Speaker Carl E. Heastie announced.
“The assembly majority is committed to ensuring that our state is a safe and accepting place of all New Yorkers — this includes ensuring that their government recognizes them and that recognition is reflected on their government IDs and documents,” the Democratic legislator said in a statement.
Along with allowing driver’s license applicants to designate their sex as male, female or “x,” it will also strip the requirement for those who change their name to publish their present name, previous name, place of birth, birthday and address in a newspaper.
It also expands the definition of “totality of circumstances” for a judge to consider risk of violence or discrimination against someone for being transgender or as the subject of domestic violence when determining whether name change papers should be sealed.
According to a 2015 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality, only 12% of respondents said they were able to have all their ID reflect the name and gender of their preference with 63% stating that none of their IDs bore their preferred name and gender. More than a third or those who showed ID with a name or gender that did not reflect their preference were met with harassment or were denied services, it said.
“The provisions in this bill will make life safer, reduce the stigma and affirm the identities for so many of our friends and neighbors,” Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell said.
Assemblywoman Jessica Gonzalez Rojas told her colleagues from the floor that the bill will lift barriers to opportunities and has health and financial ramifications for transgender and non-binary individuals.
“It will help trans and non-gender-conforming and non-binary people [have] better access to employment, rent an apartment and even access to healthcare,” she said. “This is also important for trans youth who will be able to with parental permission to change the gender marker on their state IDs as well.”
The passing of the bill to the desk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo was cheered by LGBTQ advocacy groups as being an important step to securing the privacy of members of these marginalized groups as well as protecting their safety and access to rights.
“This bill is not just about securing documents that reflect our identities as transgender, non-binary or intersex people, it’s about securing our safety, our housing, our education our health — in all the situations and places where that ID card or scrap of paper is between us and what we need to survive and thrive,” said Eoghann Renfroe, the policy and communication manager at the Empire Justice Center. “This legislation can serve as a model for other states looking to protect and support their transgender and nonbinary communities.