New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Thursday signed into law a bill to create a municipal identification card so that residents who face obstacles to obtaining government-issued identification can more easily acquire it. The bill, Intro 253, was passed on June 26 by the New York City Council in a 43 – 3 vote.
The law is intended to help undocumented immigrants and other New Yorkers who face barriers to obtaining identification. This includes transgender people, who often have difficulties securing accurate ID with gender markers that match who they are. The new law makes New York City the first governmental entity in the nation to allow transgender people to self-designate their sex on ID, without the need to provide medical or other documentation to confirm their sex. Such documentation is often extremely difficult for poor or otherwise marginalized people to obtain.
“New York City’s municipal ID law will be a tremendous help to transgender New Yorkers who are often unable to obtain ID that matches who they are as men and women,” said Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) Executive Director Michael Silverman. “Without accurate ID, transgender people face tremendous difficulty fully participating in society, whether that means finding jobs or accessing benefits and services.”
While the new ID will be a great help to transgender residents of New York City, it does not change the city’s ongoing practice of requiring transgender people to undergo surgery before it will issue them birth certificates with corrected sex designations. A birth certificate is an important form of ID that is often required to do everyday things like proving eligibility to work.
Although New York State recently joined the federal government and states like California, Iowa, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington in updating its birth certificate policy to remove its surgery requirement, New York State’s policy change does not apply to those born in New York City. TLDEF has a lawsuit pending against the City of New York and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene challenging the city’s surgery requirement.
“With the creation of a New York City ID with self-designated sex, the City should now follow New York State’s lead and drop its requirement that transgender people undergo surgery to update the gender marker on their birth certificates. The vast majority of transgender people have not undergone the surgical procedures demanded by the city,” Silverman noted. “Due to discriminatory insurance exclusions, most people cannot afford these medically necessary procedures. For some, they are also medically inappropriate. While we believe New York City’s new municipal ID program is a big step in the right direction, it is still important that New York City adopt a birth certificate policy that treats transgender New Yorkers fairly and equally.”
Read the full transcript from the signing here.