The Massachusetts Senate on Thursday voted 39-1 to allow residents to choose a nonbinary gender designation of "X" on driver's licenses and birth certificates, a move the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus said "marks the law catching up with the reality of peoples' lives."
Ev Evnen, the interim executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, held up their own driver's license at a press conference after the vote to illustrate the significance of the bill to people who are transgender, intersex or nonbinary, meaning they do not identify as either male or female.
"For me, right now, my driver's license says female. As a nonbinary person, male did not feel more accurate, and because of that, I kept the marker given to me at birth," Evnen said. "Although my whiteness and my masculinity offer me a lot of protection, I still worry that when I hand my license to a TSA agent, a clerk at the grocery store or a law enforcement official, that the difference between the person they see in front of them and the gender marked on my license will result in unjust treatment."
Evnen said the Senate, in passing the bill, "has made my life and the lives of my nonbinary and intersex siblings a little easier."
The bill, a priority of Senate President Karen Spilka, would still need to pass the House and earn the approval of Gov. Charlie Baker before it could become law.
Spilka, an Ashland Democrat who initially filed the bill after hearing from a teenage constituent, said she was "hopeful" the House would also pass the legislation.
"I think that there's plenty of time left this session for them to schedule and debate it, so we are very hopeful that they will take this up," she said.
Rep. David Linsky, a Natick Democrat whose district overlaps with Spilka's, filed a bill (H 3070) allowing gender-neutral markers on driver's licenses, which the Transportation Committee endorsed and referred to House Ways and Means on April 4.
The Senate passed a version of the bill last year, and despite a last-minute push, it did not emerge for a vote in the House before the clock ran out on formal legislative business for the two-year term.
Massachusetts already allows changes to a driver's listed identity on their license, but only from one of the two options -- "male" or "female" -- to the other.
This year's bill (S 2055), filed by Sen. Joanne Comerford, would require the Registry of Motor Vehicles to make a third, gender-neutral option available to applicants for a license or learner's permit and would allow anyone over 18, an emancipated minor or the parents of a minor to request a change in the sex listed on someone's birth certificate to male, female or X.
The birth certificate component is a new piece of the bill this year.
"This isn't breaking new ground," Spilka said. "There's already 10 states that do the driver's license, along with Washington, D.C. For birth certificates, there are five states that already allow people to go back and amend, as well as New York City. New York City is almost 9 million people, we are a state of almost 7 million, so I guess if New York City can figure it out, I do believe the smartest state in the nation can figure this out as well."
Sen. Donald Humason, a Westfield Republican, cast the only opposing vote. He declined to discuss his vote with reporters after the session.
Comerford, an Amherst Democrat elected last year after a write-in campaign, used her first speech to her colleagues to urge them to advance "human dignity and civil rights" by supporting "this beautiful legislation."
She read excerpts from letters she received from nonbinary constituents and their families, and said afterwards that voters came to her while she was running to office and asked her to support the issue.
Comerford said she feels the bill came "from the bottom up, from the people of the commonwealth for whom we work, up to the Senate."