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California could become the first state to recognize a third gender

California could become the first state to recognize a third gender

Sen. Toni Atkins, author of the bill to recognize a third gender

California might become the first US state to widely and legally recognize a third, nonbinary gender.

The state’s legislature passed Senate Bill 179, or the Gender Recognition Act, on Thursday (14 September). Should the legislation pass, it will add ‘nonbinary’ as an alternative gender option on various legal documents, including birth certificates, licenses, and IDs.

This is a broader application than Oregon’s July law, which added ‘X’ as an option, but only to driver’s licenses and ID cards.

California’s legislation will also make it legal to change one’s gender to nonbinary in courts.

The law’s history is lengthy. It passed the California Senate on 31 May with a 26-12 vote. Three months later, it passed the Assembly with a 57-21 vote. After amendments were made, it finally passed the legislature.

Now, the bill makes its way to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk. He has until 15 October to sign or veto it.

A significant step

In the face of recent political attacks on the LGBTI community, this bill could be a significant step forward.

‘SB 179 will make things a lot easier for our transgender, nonbinary and intersex friends and neighbors,’ said Senator Toni Atkins, author of the bill, in a statement.

Her coauthor, Senator Scott Wiener, both Democrats, agreed: ‘We need to make it easier for transgender and gender non-conforming people to live their lives as who they are, not who society says they’re supposed to be.’

However, now it’s simply a waiting game, as intersex activist Sara Kelly Keenan notes. She told BuzzFeed News she’s ‘guardedly optimistic’ and that until Gov. Brown ‘signs on the dotted line, I’m not doing any jigs’.