March 8, 2021 at 5:53 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
White House open to third-gender option on federal IDs, not sure EO needed
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. (Screen capture via CSPAN)

White House officials were open Monday to include a third-gender option on federal government IDs, but stopped short of embracing a request to make that happen via executive order.

Jennifer Klein, executive director of the newly created White House Gender Policy Council, said during a White House news briefing she was willing to look at a third-gender option for non-binary people when asked about a potential executive order.

“I haven’t looked yet to see whether that requires an executive order,” Klein said. “I would note that we are very inclusive in our definition of gender, and we intend to address all sorts of discrimination and fight for equal rights for people, whether that’s LGBTQ+ people, women, girls, men, so that’s certainly something that we’ll look, but I honestly don’t know whether that requires an executive order.”

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris campaigned on providing a third-gender option on government IDs, such as U.S. passports. Both included the proposed change in the comprehensive plans for LGBTQ rights as 2020 presidential candidates.

The American Civil Liberties Union has since launched a public campaign to encourage the Biden administration to implement the change with an executive order that would direct U.S. agencies to make the change across the board. As reported by The 19th, the White House has engaged in talks with the ACLU about the proposed executive order.

When the Washington Blade pointed out during the briefing the ACLU had started the campaign, Klein turned to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who said, “Sounds like we’ll just have to look into it a little more to see what’s required, but it’s a good question.”

Arli Christian, campaign strategist for the ACLU, said via email to the Washington Blade she takes the White House openness to the executive order as a good sign.

“A warm welcome and thank you to the Gender Policy Council for upholding the White House’s commitment to fighting gender-based discrimination, including discrimination against transgender, intersex and non-binary people,” Christian said. “Reforming the use of gender markers on IDs and records across the federal government is key to that work, and an executive order is the best way to ensure consistency across all the federal agencies. So far, over 70,000 people have signed onto the ACLU’s petition calling for the White House to issue this order. We look forward to continuing our conversations with the White House on this issue.”

At least 19 states, including Arkansas, California, Colorado and Washington State, as well as D.C. allow individuals to select a third-gender option on state-issued IDs, such as driver’s licenses.

A White House official told the Blade after the briefing Biden will work in a general sense to help non-binary people obtain a third-gender option on their IDs, but stopped short of saying an executive order would happen.

“President Biden will champion full equality and civil rights protections for LGBTQ+ people to ensure that every American is treated with respect and dignity regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” the official said. “President Biden remains committed to advancing state and federal efforts that allow transgender and non-binary Americans to update their identification documents to accurately reflect their gender identity, especially as transgender and non-binary people continue to face harassment or are denied access to services because their identification documents don’t affirm their identity.”

Klein also addressed during the White House briefing a question from another reporter, who asked whether the Gender Policy Council would work to address anti-transgender bills in state legislatures, including the measure barring transgender kids from sports Gov. Tate Reeves is expected to sign in Mississippi.

“We have the tools that we have, which are federal laws, and the bully pulpit and fighting for our policy and values, and we will be working really closely across the White House, and the Domestic Policy Council in particular on — and the National Security Council, by the way on a series of equity issues,” Klein said.

Also during the briefing, Psaki answered a question from the Blade on the failed vote in the U.S. Senate on Saturday to defund schools and universities that allow non-biological boys to participate in school sports, essentially barring transgender kids from taking part in athletics. Although the amendment failed, it obtained bipartisan support and was supported by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who’s known for supporting LGBTQ rights, and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W-Va.).

Asked by the Blade whether Biden as head of the Democratic Party has any regrets the amendment won support from senators in both parties, Psaki reiterated “transgender rights are human rights.”

“First let me say the president’s position on the rights of transgender kids to play sports is clear,” Psaki said. “He signed an executive order, and he believes transgender rights are human rights and wants to see kids have the opportunity to play sports and participate in a range of activities.”

Psaki added Biden would have opposed the amendment if he were still in the Senate, but declined to comment further or specifically on the bipartisan support the anti-transgender amendment attracted.

“I would say we expected, as there often is with vote-a-rama, there should be a range of amendments that he would oppose, and this certainly would have been one of them, but I don’t have anything more to read out for you in terms of his specific concerns,” Psaki said.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2021. All rights reserved. Protected with CloudFlare, hosted by Keynetik.