Last holiday weekend, many Oregonians had more than the birth of our country to celebrate.
In June, Oregon state officials adopted a new rule that allows individuals to choose not just from “Male” or “Female” on identification cards, but “X” as well––for unspecified. The rule went into effect on July 3, making Oregon the first state in the U.S. to legally recognize non-binary, intersex and agender persons on ID cards.
“We must proactively break down the barriers of institutional bias,” said Governor Kate Brown, calling the rule a step in the direction of creating “a society that upholds the rights, liberties, and dignities of each of its people.”
THE LANDMARK DECISION THAT PRECIPITATED THE RULE
In June 2016, Jamie Shupe, a non-binary Portland, Oregon resident, successfully petitioned an Oregon court to change their legal sex from female to nonbinary. (Jamie prefers the pronouns “they” and “their,” and prefers to go by first name only.)
Since 2013, Oregon statute has allowed courts to legally change the sex of an individual if that person has “undergone surgical, hormonal, or other treatment appropriate for that individual for the purpose of gender transition and that sexual reassignment has been completed.” However, reassignment constituted only from male to female, or female to male––not from one sex to a nonbinary designation.
Jamie’s case changed that. Although the two-paragraph decision was made with little fanfare or analysis, this ruling was the first of its kind in the country.
Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center in Oakland, said the decision was a “historic step” toward the government recognizing “nonbinary members of our community and ensuring they have access to identity documents that reflect who they are, just like everyone else.”
“I’ve trembled with the fear of failure and cried tears until I had no more tears to cry, because of the magnitude of what’s been at stake – and now won,” said Jaime at the time. “But in the end, the huge legal and non-binary civil rights battle that I expected to unfold going into this never came to pass; simply because this was always the right thing to do all along.”
Since the ruling, many others have been granted non-binary or agender designation by courts in Oregon and California.
Although it has been over a year since the ruling, the new rule only recently went into effect because “in order to comply with the order, DMV needed about a year to implement the change. Time was required to study state laws, update computer systems, work with business partners such as law enforcement and courts, and change administrative rules,” according to a press release from the Oregon Department of Transportation’s website.
THE RULE’S RECEPTION IN OREGON AND BEYOND
During public hearings in Eugene and Portland in May, the overwhelming majority were in favor of the rule change. Those in favor urged that the “X” designation would make them “feel safer, and more likely to be accepted for who and what I really am.” Other asked, simply “why not?”
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