Passport Applicants Will Be Able to Choose Their Gender, State Department Says
The State Department said on Wednesday it was introducing a new rule that will enable Americans to select their gender on their passport without presenting supporting medical documentation.
The change will more easily enable transgender Americans to have passports that match their gender identity, and the State Department described it as a step toward promoting equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people around the world.
The State Department also said it was taking steps to add a new gender marker for persons who don’t identify as either male or female but as “nonbinary, intersex, and gender nonconforming.” It said the process for doing so was complex.
“We are evaluating the best approach to achieve this goal,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
Previously, passport applicants were required to present medical documentation if the selected gender didn’t match their other identity documents.
The American Civil Liberties Union, a civil-rights group, said in a statement the new rule was an important step forward.
“Improved access to accurate passports will have such a profound impact on the lives of trans, intersex, and nonbinary folks across the country,” said Arli Christian, an ACLU campaign strategist, adding that more remained to be done to implement the change across federal agencies.
The administration didn’t say how many passport applicants it expected to be affected by the decision. The Williams Institute, a research group at the UCLA School of Law that studies sexual-orientation and gender-identity policy, estimates around 1.4 million Americans identify as transgender.
The ACLU and other advocates have lobbied for the federal government to add an “X” marker to all federal documents for individuals who don’t identify either as male or female. U.S. policy on gender identification varies across the federal government and from state to state.
About 20 U.S. states already permit applicants to choose among M, F or X on their driver’s licenses, according to the Movement Advancement Project, a nonprofit policy research group.
President Biden promised greater equality for LGBT persons during his campaign and has taken a series of steps since taking office to deliver on the pledge. On his first day in office, Mr. Biden signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity or orientation.
He has also lifted restrictions on transgender people serving in the U.S. military and reversed the Trump-era rollback of gay and transgender protections in healthcare.
Civil rights advocates have also praised Mr. Biden’s decision to nominate the first transgender person to a Senate-confirmed executive branch role, Dr. Rachel Levine to be assistant health secretary. He also nominated the second openly gay cabinet member, Pete Buttigieg, to be Transportation Secretary.
Former President Trump previously made history nominating the first openly gay cabinet member, Richard Grenell to be acting director of National Intelligence.