Lawmakers are supporting a new license in the state of Maryland to recognize residents who don’t identify as male or female.
The Maryland Senate gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill from Montgomery County Sen. William C. Smith Jr. (D) that would allow residents to apply for licenses with gender identifiers of “M,” “F,” or “X.”
The voice vote came after a debate of about 15 minutes; the measure is expected to come up for final approval later this week.
Smith said the bill was “exactly why I came down here, which is to make sure we are a more inclusive place for everyone.”
But he first fielded a series of questions from Republican colleagues on the floor.
Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings (R-Baltimore County) asked whether the bill could cause confusion for police and correctional officers.
“When it comes to that information, I think it should be accurate. And I understand that we have people who have gone through changes, but they’re either going one way or the other, but they’re not stuck in the middle,” Jennings said.
“Are we going to call them ‘X men?’” the senator quipped at one point.
Washington County Sen. Andrew Serafini (R) also expressed concern about the bill. He said he understood that the bill would present a solution for people who are born intersex, but said he worried about precedent.
“We want to accommodate, I understand that. And I want to be sympathetic. But these are ID cards. The question is where will it go next,” Serafini said. “Because these are things that 10, 20 years ago – and I’m an old person, I admit it – we could have never imagined.”
Baltimore County Sen. Delores Kelley (D), who has advocated for intersex rights in the past, stood up to defend the bill.
“There are literally people who are not born exactly one way or another. So ‘X’ is real. ‘Unspecified’ is real. We need to accept everybody that God made the way they are,” Kelley said.
Smith and Sen. Mary L. Washington (D-Baltimore City) pointed out that the state’s Motor Vehicle Administration already allows people to change their gender identities on driver’s licenses, and this bill would simply open another option and allow drivers to apply for a change without the documentation currently required.
Serafini had asked whether there was a limitation on how often someone could change their ID and Senate Minority Whip Stephen S. Hershey Jr. (R-Upper Shore) asked if the practice has been used in a deceptive way in other states.
Smith said changing identification frequently would be an anomaly and said he was unaware of any deceptive practices. There was no opposition to the bill when it was heard in committee.
Several states, including Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Maine, Oregon, and the District of Columbia, have all recently authorized the “X” designation and 11 countries allow the designation on their passports.
The U.S. State Department and Department of Homeland Security recognize nonbinary IDs, and earlier this month, the five major airlines recognized a nonbinary option for travelers checking into flights, Smith said.
“This is real. This is real life. So this is a way that we could recognize a segment of the population so they can feel like they can move throughout society with a little bit more ease,” he said.
The cross-filed House Bill 421 is scheduled for a hearing on Thursday. A similar measure was introduced last year in the House of Delegates and received an unfavorable committee report.