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Oregon becomes 1st US state to offer gender-neutral driver’s licenses

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    Oregon has become the first state to allow residents who don’t identify as male or female to mark their gender as “not specified” on applications for learner’s driving permits, identity cards and driver’s licenses.

    The rule went into effect on Monday and drivers now have “the option to change the sex identifier on your driver license, driver permit or identification card to M, F or X for not-specified,” according to Oregon’s Driver and Motor Vehicle Services (DMV) website.

    The information provided to Oregon’s DMV “when changing your gender designation will be kept confidential.”

    The change is free for those renewing their licenses, while drivers with valid licenses who want replacements will need to pay the standard fee.

    The DMV said it studied state laws, updated computer systems, worked with law enforcement and the courts, and changed administrative rules to comply with the court order. The new rule didn’t require approval through state legislation.

    “It was new territory for everybody,” DMV spokesman David House told Reuters in May, noting that no other state offers a third gender choice.

    In June 2016, Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Amy Holmes Hehn granted a request by army veteran Jamie Shupe, who has been transitioning since 2013, to change the retired sergeant’s gender from female to a third, non-gender option, according to Reuters. It was believed to be the first decision of its kind in the United States.

    The rule was also influenced in part by Portland becoming the first city to allow a third option for gender identity.

    California lawmakers are considering adding a third gender options on state IDs, and last month, Washington, DC became the first jurisdiction to offer general-neutral licenses.

    Judicial Watch, the right-wing watchdog group, argues the state laws are at odds with federal law.

    “The Real ID Act, passed by Congress after the 9/11 terrorist attacks specifically requires gender on each driver’s license and identification card issued to a person by a state,” said Judicial Watch about the act that was passed in 2005.

    “It… prohibits federal agencies from accepting for official purposes licenses and identification cards that do not meet these standards… including boarding an aircraft, accessing federal facilities and entering nuclear power plants.”

    The rights of transgender people along with public policy involving gender have become polarizing issues across the United States, most notably in several states, including North Carolina, which have tried to address the use of public bathrooms.

    Internationally, British Columbia in Canada became the first province to issue a neutral-gender identify health card through the efforts of parents. They are also fighting for children’s gender to be omitted from birth certificates, as well as any other government documents.

    Another province, Alberta, allows people to put an ‘X’ as a gender marker on birth certificates and other government documents, while Ontario offers gender-neutral health cards and driver’s licences, and plans to extend this to birth certificates next year.

    New York City issued the US’s first non-binary birth certificate late last year. Germany, which approved gay marriage Friday, became the first country in Europe to allow parents to omit their baby’s gender from their birth certificate in 2013.

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