California Driver's Licenses Could See a Third Gender Option

California Driver's Licenses Could See a Third Gender Option
File photo by Ted Eytan/Flickr

A bill that would allow motorists chose a third gender option for their driver's license is on the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature or veto.

Some supporters of the bill believe he'll greenlight the legislation, which seeks to provide a third option in addition to male and female on driver's licenses, state IDs and other California documents. The bill was recently passed by the Senate and Assembly.

"We haven't heard anything from his office, but he's been in support of trans issues in the past," says Corinne Green, a policy coordinator for Oakland-based Transgender Law Center, which co-sponsored the proposal. "This is a great opportunity to stand up to the Trump agenda."

The bill, SB 179, was introduced by Sen. Toni Atkins of San Diego, who said in a statement that issuing IDs with accurate gender identities could help derail discrimination and harassment.

"For Californians who have an ID that does not match their gender presentation, showing it at airports, in shops or to law enforcement can be extremely stressful and lead to harassment or a delay in completing a transaction," Atkins said. "It doesn’t need to be this way."

Scott Wiener of San Francisco is a co-author. Atkins' spokesman said it wasn't clear if Brown would sign the bill or veto it. The governor has until Oct. 15 to make up his mind. California wouldn't be the first state to allow nonbinary genders on driver's licenses. Green of the Transgender Law Center says Oregon and Washington, D.C., started issuing such documents this summer.

Atkins' office cites a 2015 survey of transgender people that found only about one in 10 "reported that all of their IDs had their preferred name and gender," according to a fact sheet for SB 179.

The lawmaker says the bill would end a maze of paperwork for those, including Californians under the age of 18, who want their state documents to better reflect their gender. "Another barrier is the requirement that an applicant for a gender change court order or a corresponding name change court order appear in court even if no timely objections have been filed," according to the fact sheet. "For many, this is an intimidating and confusing process."

“The simple act of showing a driver’s license is something most of us take for granted, but it can be a dangerous act for people whose gender expression doesn’t necessarily match what’s on their ID," Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, said in a statement. "SB 179 will make the process of getting government-issued identifications easier and safer for thousands of Californians."

If it's signed, AB 179 would let folks chose male, female or "nonbinary" when they apply for driver's licenses and other state documents. "Nonbinary people in California would no longer struggle to have documents reflect their identities," Green says.


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