New Hampshire next year will become the 12th state to allow residents to identify their gender with a neutral “X” on their driver’s licenses, the latest in the increasing public accommodations for LGTBQ rights at the state level.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, allowed House Bill 669 — which passed on a voice vote in the legislature — to become law without his signature.
The law will allow a transgender or nonbinary person to mark an “X” for gender on a driver’s license or identification card. Currently, the only available marks are “M” for male and “F” for female.
When a similar law in Hawaii goes into effect in the summer of 2020, 13 states and the District of Columbia will allow for a third designation for gender on state records.
Eighteen states require a court order to change a person’s gender marker on vital statistics, while two states — Tennessee and Ohio — ban altering gender marks altogether.
New Hampshire’s law was cheered by pro-LGBTQ rights groups and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat running for president.
“This is an important step to ensure that nonbinary Americans are seen and respected,” Ms. Warren tweeted Thursday.
But where many progressive groups see victory, wary social conservatives see more change on the horizon.
“On Governor Sununu’s watch, driver’s licenses state-issued IDs will become declarations of personal feelings,” said Shannon McGinley, executive director of the Granite State-based conservative group, Cornerstone Action. “That it no antidote to discrimination.”
A spokesperson for Cornerstone Action said New Hampshire could see in its future a ban on therapy for adults seeking help from gender dysphoria, mandatory reporting for parents who don’t affirm or grant permission for a child seeking a sex change surgery, and the addition of “neither male nor female” on birth certificates.
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Campaign, a LGBTQ equality group, lists “identity documents” as one of six challenges to transgender people in its official materials, along with poverty and stigmatization.
“The widespread lack of accurate identity documents among transgender people can have an impact on every area of their lives, including access to emergency housing or other public services,” said materials posted to the group’s website.
Christopher Jay, who had served as attorney with Cornerstone Action, submitted written testimony to the New Hampshire Senate Transportation Committee opposing the gender-neutral designation on state ID cards. He asked if other attributes — such as race, hair, weight, height — might be subject to alteration next.
“We can make whatever claims we want about it, but at the end of the day, as a man, I will never be able to give birth to a child,” Mr. Jay said.
Public opinion polls show increasing acceptance for transgender persons in the U.S. More than six in 10 Americans say they’re generally “more supportive toward transgender rights” compared to their views five years ago, according to a June study from the Public Religion Research Institute.
About 25% said their views are more opposed to transgender rights than they were five years ago.
While transgender visibility increases, legal drawbacks remain to reaching the status of a protected class, along with race, sex, and religion. Nationwide, it is legal in more than 30 states for landlords to deny housing to a transgender person.
“States and localities should also ensure that all residents — including transgender, nonbinary and gender nonconforming individuals — are protected from discrimination in employment, housing and public spaces, which includes equal access to sex-segregated facilities,” said Xavier Persad, senior legislative counsel at the Human Rights Campaign.