On the 10-year anniversary of marriage equality in New York State, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation giving New Yorkers the ability to update their state identification and birth certificates with an “x” gender designation. The law also waives an outdated rule requiring folks to publish name changes in newspapers.
“The Gender Recognition Act eliminates barriers that undermine the health, safety, and equality of people because of their gender,” Cuomo said as he delivered remarks at Chelsea Piers on June 24. “It affirms basic human dignity and it ends discrimination… It allows each individual to identify their own gender, not by any government-designed form.”
The Gender Recognition Act also removes extra medical hurdles for trans and non-binary New Yorkers. Individuals will not be mandated to show a doctor’s note when changing their gender marker on their ID. The birth certificate provision solidifies policies in place in New York State allowing minors to update their birth certificate. In New York City, the law already permits individuals to update birth certificates with an “x” gender marker.
Reflecting on the marriage fight, Cuomo acknowledged State Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell — who led the Gender Recognition Act in the State Assembly — as well as former State Senator Thomas Duane, activist Cathy Marino-Thomas, and Freedom to Marry founder Evan Wolfson, among others.
“Remember where we were, marriage was not legal for non-heterosexual couples,” Cuomo said. “So the nation said, we offer you civil unions. Almost like marriage. We offer you domestic partnerships, almost like marriage, but not exactly marriage, not full equality. It was like saying you are three fifths of a man, three fifths of equality almost equal, but not quite. And New York said no. Almost equal was not good enough because they’re almost equal is not equal and we demand equality.”
O’Donnell, who was lead sponsor of the marriage equality bill in the State Assembly, celebrated his latest legislative victory.
“I am proud of our progress on LGBTQ rights in the last 10 years and am deeply honored to continue that work with the Gender Recognition Act, which will make life safer for trans individuals, reduce stigma, and affirm trans individuals’ identities,” O’Donnell said. “Our work for equal rights is far from over, but we have proven that love is love, that trans lives matter, and that we are ready for the fights ahead.”
The Gender Recognition Act was led in the State Senate by Brad Hoylman of Manhattan. The bill passed the Assembly on June 8 and the State Senate on June 10.
“Getting the Gender Recognition Act over the finish line and signed into law is a wonderful way to celebrate Pride month in New York,” Hoylman said in a written statement. “Each and every New Yorker should be recognized for who they are by their government. But today, it remains incredibly hard for many New Yorkers to get the identification documents they require for travel, to get a job, and even to go to school. This bill will change that, making it easier for gender non-conforming, transgender, non-binary, and intersex New Yorkers — including minors — to get IDs that accurately reflect their identity.”
Among other speakers at the Chelsea Piers event included out trans attorney and former State Assembly candidate Kristen Browde, who looked back on the gains for LGBTQ rights in the last decade.
“You know, I don’t need to tell you that our community’s relationship with government has not always been easy,” Browde said. “It’s still not easy. And as I look across this row of people and I look at the people around here, there’s no question that you know that we have had to fight and we will continue to fight and that equality is our goal and nothing less. But if you think back 51 years ago, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera… they’re not names we know because it was easy. They fought and they fought and they fought and they pushed. And they didn’t just fight in the streets, they fought by getting people into places of power who mattered, who would make a difference, who we could trust to make a difference.”
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