Lambda Legal Applauds Signing of Gender Recognition Act Into Law

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June 24, 2021
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Today, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Gender Recognition Act. Yesterday, Lambda Legal announced an agreement with New York State and Gov. Andrew Cuomo that puts on hold the lawsuit Lambda Legal filed on behalf of Sander Saba, a nonbinary transgender New Yorker seeking an “X” gender marker on their New York state driver’s license. In exchange for putting Mx. Saba’s lawsuit on hold, the State has committed to updating its legacy computer system to be able to issue state ID cards and official driver’s licenses with X gender markers by May 24, 2022.  The agreement also committed Gov. Cuomo to sign the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) passed out of the state legislature earlier this month. Consistent with the GRA, the state also agreed that applicants can update the gender marker on their driver’s license by self-attestation, rather than requiring a medical provider’s letter of certification.

Ethan Rice, Senior Attorney with the Fair Courts Project at Lambda Legal, released the following statement:

“Lambda Legal applauds the signing of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) into law, an important and long-awaited bill we strongly supported for years. We helped to draft an initial version of the bill, which now will update the protocols around correcting identity documents for transgender and nonbinary New Yorkers in order to help them navigate life without having to fear or risk discrimination and harassment. This long-awaited law will remove the publication requirement for name changes, allow for a self-attestation system for DMV-issued IDs, including drivers’ licenses, allow for gender-neutral X markers on state-issued IDs, and codify into law several recent legal wins by Lambda Legal and others such as allowing for self-attestation and X gender markers on NY State birth certificates, permitting corrections to the gender marker on minors’ birth certificates, and permitting parents to correct the parent’s name and gender on their child’s birth certificate, among other important updates. We welcome Governor Cuomo signing this bill and hope the state continues to ensure all transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming New Yorkers have access to correct documentation.

“Lambda Legal’s lawsuit on behalf of Mx. Sander Saba, along with Governor Cuomo’s signing the Gender Recognition Act into law after our legal agreement, will finally rid New York of a discriminatory and outdated policy. This agreement and the years-long work of trans advocates lobbying the state to pass the Gender Recognition Act means that nonbinary, transgender, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming New Yorkers’ right to have accurate, essential identity documents will finally be realized.”

“This change will bring New York up to date with the 19 other states and the District of Columbia that maintain policies respecting the lives of nonbinary people and giving them access to accurate identity documents and the ability to be fully themselves in their day-to-day lives.”

Background

The Gender Recognition Act came on the heels of two different Lambda Legal lawsuits against the State of New York. In March 2020, in response to MHW v. Cuomo, New York State announced a policy change to allow self-attestation for birth certificates and permit corrections for transgender minors’ birth certificates. Likewise, in response to Saba v. Cuomo, a lawsuit currently pending in courts, New York State announced in court filings its intention to allow X markers on state drivers’ licenses in the future, though the current policy prohibiting such markers remains in place.

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More about MHW v. Cuomo:

On January 2020, Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit challenging New York State’s policy categorically prohibiting transgender minors from correcting the sex designation on their birth certificates – a critically important document for transgender people seeking to navigate through life with accurate government documents. The minor who challenged the policy – identified only by his initials M.H.W. –is a transgender boy born in Ithaca, New York, who currently resides in Houston, Texas. In March 2020, New York State announced it was changing its policy prohibiting transgender minors from correcting the sex marker on their birth certificates in a manner consistent with their gender identity. In addition, the State announced that as a result of the case it would move to a self-attestation model in order to correct the gender marker on birth certificates.

More about Saba v. Cuomo:

Lambda Legal represents Sander Saba, a nonbinary transgender New York resident who is seeking an accurate New York driver’s license that reflects their gender. The lawsuit challenges New York State’s existing discriminatory policy that categorically prohibits nonbinary people from obtaining an accurate driver’s license that reflects their gender, instead forcing them to choose either “male” or “female.” Saba, a 26-year-old lawyer, is seeking an accurate driver’s license with an “X” marker. Mx. Saba has a New York City birth certificate with an “X” marker, but their Commonwealth of Pennsylvania driver’s license with an accurate X gender marker expired in November 2020. They currently have no state-issued identification card that accurately communicates their gender and therefore are unable to go about their day-to-day life like other New Yorkers.  In response to the lawsuit, New York State announced, in court filings, that it intended to permit people to obtain driver’s licenses with an “X” marker in the future. With the agreement reached and the signing of the GRA, X gender markers will be available in May 2022.