April 7, 2020 at 9:51 pm EDT | by Philip Van Slooten
Northam signs Va. non-binary driver’s license bill into law
decriminalization, gay news, Washington Blade
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has signed a law requiring the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to offer a non-binary option on driver’s licenses.

The governor signed Senate Bill 246 on March 31, which now offers driver’s license applicants the option to mark “male,” “female” or “non-binary” when designating their sex.

The measure introduced by state Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax County), passed in the Virginia House of Delegates on Feb. 25 and in the Virginia Senate on March 2.

“Historically, transgender and non-binary Virginians have experienced challenges obtaining accurate identity documents due to unnecessary barriers,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck. “This law helps to change that, and we are proud that Virginia has now joined the ranks of 16 other states and D.C. who already offer a third gender marker option on state driver’s licenses and IDs.”

Maryland and D.C. have each offered “X” gender neutral identifiers since 2017 and 2019, respectively.

“This will have a significant and positive impact on the LGBTQ community in Virginia,” Lamneck explained. “And allow individuals to go about their daily lives with identification that accurately reflects their identity.”

Regional activists applaud new Va. law

Equality Virginia has been tracking the bill’s progress through the General Assembly and Lamneck said they are proud of the hard work both legislators and community supporters have put in to bring Virginia’s policies in-line with the region and a growing portion of the country.

“Congratulations to the people of Virginia,” said Kaniya Walker, a transgender woman who works for Heart to Hand, Inc., a Maryland-based organization supporting those infected and affected by HIV and other STDs. “I’m actually a Virginian and it’s good that they are progressing. It’s been a long time coming.”

“We at Trans Healthcare MD are so proud of the non-binary activists and their allies who worked so hard in Virginia for so many years to make this happen,” said Lee Blinder, the organization’s executive director and founder, in a statement to the Washington Blade. “The whole DMV now has a non-binary ID option.”

Trans Healthcare MD held a rally last year in support of Maryland’s “X” gender option becoming law. Blinder, who identifies as non-binary and like Lamneck uses singular they pronouns, recognized the hard work that went into this achievement.

“We are excited to see the next steps towards equity for (non-binary), gendered, intersex and those who want privacy on their identification documents. That will be possible after these wins,” Blinder said. “Congratulations to our siblings in Virginia. Affirming documents have made a true difference practically and emotionally for us, and our hearts are so full to hear this good news.”

Walker also pointed out this is a necessary but first step for trans and non-binary inclusion.

“I’m hoping that in the near future Virginia gives non-binary and people of trans experience the same benefits as we get in Maryland and D.C.,” she told the Blade. “Because I know so many trans persons who find it hard to gain employment or go to school because of barriers such as gender marker changes.”

CP Hoffman of FreeState Justice, Maryland’s LGBTQ advocacy group, also applauded the Virginia law.

“We in Maryland are very excited for non-binary Virginians for the ability to have ID that respects who they are,” Hoffman told the Blade. “This will also eliminate the existing situation in the DMV, where moving from one part of the metro area to another can cause you to lose gender-affirming ID. Now, DMV residents won’t be faced with that sort of decision anymore.”

The new Virginia law goes into effect July 1.

© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2020. All rights reserved.