Metro Weekly

D.C. Council unanimously passes bill requiring non-binary gender option on IDs

Bill makes current DMV policy permanent, meaning any resident can select "X" as a gender marker if they wish

Photo courtesy of Jay Wu, National Center for Transgender Equality.

The D.C. Council has unanimously approved a bill requiring the DMV to offer residents the option of obtaining IDs with non-binary gender markers on them.

Tuesday’s vote marked the second time the Council had approved the bill, which now heads to Mayor Muriel Bowser for her signature into law. (D.C. law requires any bill to be voted on and approved two separate times by the Council before being signed into law.)

The bill, sponsored by Councilmember Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), makes permanent a administrative change approved by the Bowser administration last year that allows any D.C. resident, regardless of gender identification to obtain a driver’s license or resident identification card from the DMV with “X,” meaning “unspecified or other” as their gender marker.

Under the policy already in place, the DMV has also eliminated requirements that people seeking to change their gender marker obtain a signed letter from a medical or legal service provider attesting to the person’s gender identity.

Instead, a person is able to fill out a form attesting that they are a certain gender, whether that is female, male, or non-binary.

When the change was made last year, it was hailed by transgender and non-binary advocates as a sign of progress and a way to cut through the bureaucratic red tape that transgender or gender-diverse individuals often must navigate in order to have their IDs reflect their gender identity.

But because the DMV’s actions, at the behest of Bowser, constitute an executive action, the policy could technically have been reversed or repealed at the whim of any future mayor.

Nadeau’s bill now establishes the policy in statute, meaning a reversal would be all but impossible in the District, where most Councilmembers are strong allies of the LGBTQ community. 

Currently, 10 countries, including Canada, Australia, Nepal, and even Pakistan, allow citizens to obtain IDs and passports with gender markers other than female or male, often choosing the gender-neutral “X” as a third possibility.

Recently, a federal judge ruled that the State Department overstepped its authority when it denied a U.S. citizen who is intersex a passport because of their refusal to mark either “female” or “male” on the application form. 

Though D.C. was the first jurisdiction to begin offering a gender-neutral or non-binary option on official government identification documents, other states, including Maine, California, and Oregon, have since joined the ranks of those who have adopted similar changes.

“It’s important to me that our laws ensure all residents of the District are respected, which is why I introduced and pushed for passage of this bill,” Nadeau said in a statement. “Once it becomes law, it will put the District on the leading edge of protections for our LGBTQ and non-binary residents. This law permanently changes the way the District displays gender on its IDs by allowing residents to choose an option that reflects their reality.”

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to clarify and better explain Council legislative procedure, and the timing related to the administrative change pushed by the Bowser administration that preceded Nadeau’s bill.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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