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Cambridge officials want to add gender-neutral option to birth certificates

Cambridge Mayor Marc McGovern introduced a policy order this month asking the city solicitor to draft a home-rule petition to send to the state Legislature that would allow people to amend their birth certificates and choose “X” as a gender option.Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images/File 2018

Officials in Cambridge are pushing for a gender-neutral option to be added to birth certificates for people born in the city who don’t identify as male or female, a move inspired by municipalities that have adopted similar legislation across the country.

A policy order introduced by Mayor Marc McGovern this month, and cosponsored by several city councilors, asks the city solicitor to draft a home-rule petition to send to the state Legislature that would allow people to amend their birth certificates and choose “X” as a gender option.

“Cambridge strives to be a welcoming community to all — including our transgender and gender non-binary friends and neighbors,” the order states, “a goal that the Council can advance by joining other jurisdictions in offering a third gender category and removing barriers for residents born in this city to amend their birth certificates.”


Officials argue that by adding an “X” option residents would be granted “more control in defining for the government who they are and affirming their humanity and dignity.”

In a telephone interview Monday, McGovern said a new law in New York City prompted him to introduce the policy order.

In October, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill allowing residents who don’t identify as male or female to instead select “X” on a birth certificate.

The bill also removed the requirement for people to get a note from a doctor or mental health professional before amending the gender on their birth certificates, according to the New York Times. It went into effect in New York City on Jan. 1.

California, Oregon, Washington state, and New Jersey offer similar gender-neutral options for people who want to amend their birth certificates, according to the report.


“I read up about it and talked to some people and said, ‘All right, we should follow their lead and do that here and hopefully others will follow our lead,’ ” McGovern said.

Cambridge’s policy order — a preliminary step in the process — will go before the City Council during a regularly scheduled hearing Monday night.

Members of the public will have a chance to weigh in on the proposal during an open comment period at the start of the meeting.

If the council approves the order, the city solicitor would then draft a proposal before bringing it back to elected officials for a second vote. From there, it would be sent to the state Legislature for approval, McGovern said.

When asked whether the proposal would be considered for a future vote, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Robert DeLeo said in a statement that he is “proud of the House’s leadership in fighting for civil rights for transgender individuals.”

“We will review any proposal sent to the House,” she added.

McGovern said if it eventually becomes law, Cambridge would be the first community in the state to give residents the option.

“We are a diverse, inclusive community and we should be leading the way on these issues. And you know, I want everyone in our city to feel that they belong here,” McGovern said. “I think that this will go a long way in allowing people to really see that the community supports them and they are welcome.”


Steve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.