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California Lawmakers OK Bill to Add New Gender Option on IDs

SACRAMENTO — California senators have passed a bill to add a third gender option on state IDs for people who do not identify as either male or female.

Lawmakers voted 26-12 Wednesday to send the bill to the Assembly.

If the measure passes the Assembly and is signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, California could become the first state to add a third gender option on IDs, said Sasha Buchert, an attorney at the Transgender Law Center in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Sen. Toni Atkins’ bill would add a non-binary gender option for driver’s licenses, birth certificates, identity cards and gender change court orders. The San Diego Democrat says SB 179 would also simplify the process for changing one’s gender on those documents.

The bill would also let minors apply for a gender change on their birth certificates with permission from a parent or guardian.

Atkins says the legislation would help transgender people and those who do not identify as either male or female to obtain official documents that match their gender identity.

“I thank my colleagues in the Senate who took a brave stand today for Californians who have a hard enough time as it is,” Atkins said in a statement. “Most of us use our I.D. on a daily basis and take it for granted. SB 179 will make what should be a simple task much easier for our transgender and nonbinary neighbors.”

Transgender and gender non-conforming people who have to use IDs that do not match their gender identity face “harassment and discrimination,” said Buchert.

“It’s a huge step forward for transgender and non-binary Californians,” she said of the bill.

The bill is opposed by the California Family Council, a conservative Christian group, which argues that “government documents need to reflect biological facts for identification,” the group’s CEO Jonathan Keller said in a statement earlier this year.

On Wednesday, the Senate also passed another Atkins bill, SB310, to guarantee incarcerated people the right to ask a court for a name or gender change. That bill would also require corrections officers use a prisoner’s new name if they successfully obtain a name change. It now also moves to the Assembly.