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    Cambridge advances proposal to add gender-neutral option to city birth certificates

    The policy order, which was introduced this month by Mayor Marc McGovern, was passed unanimously by the City Council during the first meeting of the New Year Monday night.
    Shutterstock / Lane V. Erickson
    The policy order, which was introduced this month by Mayor Marc McGovern, was passed unanimously by the City Council during the first meeting of the New Year Monday night.

    Cambridge officials Monday advanced a proposal to add a gender-neutral option to birth certificates issued in the city while letting those who don’t identify with the gender assigned to them at birth amend the document without having to jump through certain administrative hoops.

    The policy order, which was introduced this month by Mayor Marc McGovern, was passed unanimously by the City Council during the first meeting of the New Year Monday night.

    The proposal specifically asks the city solicitor to draft a home-rule petition to the state Legislature, because adding a third gender category — “X” — on birth certificates would require state approval.

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    The city solicitor did not immediately reply to a request for comment about how long that process could take.

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    Under current state law, Massachusetts residents can amend the sex on a birth certificate with what is termed “proper evidence,” according to the state’s website. The process requires a note from a physician stating a person has completed medical intervention for the purpose of permanent sex reassignment, the website says.

    Cambridge officials have said adding “X” would give residents born in the city “more control in defining for the government who they are and affirming their humanity and dignity,” according to details of the order.

    The proposal follows in the footsteps of similar legislation passed across the country.

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

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    The bill also removed the requirement for people to get a note from a doctor or mental health professional before making the change, according to the New York Times. It went into effect in New York City on Jan. 1, 2019.

    California, Oregon, Washington state — and soon, New Jersey — offer similar gender-neutral options for those who want to amend their assigned gender on legal documents.

    Officials said they hope by advancing the order to the state Legislature, other communities throughout Massachusetts will do likewise.

    During Monday night’s meeting, McGovern said he’s spoken to delegates at the State House who have been supportive of the measure and that the proposal is long overdue.

    “Hopefully this will give it some momentum on a larger scale,” McGovern said.

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    A spokeswoman for House Speaker Robert DeLeo said in a statement Monday that the House would “review any proposal sent” its way.

    On Tuesday morning, after the initial proposal was approved, Cambridge City Councilor Alanna Mallon said in a tweet that the move is “a signal to the transgender and non-binary conforming community that their municipal leaders care about them.”

    She added, “This would be one step in ensuring that transgender residents receive the dignity and respect they deserve.”

    Councilor Sumbul Siddiqui, who cosponsored the proposal, said in a statement to The Boston Globe that the changes would be a simple step with substantial effect for anyone who does not feel the sex indicated on their birth records match their identity.

    “The current system is one that does not uphold our community values,” she said of the process to make changes to the document. “I feel it’s the government’s responsibility to remove complex and dehumanizing barriers wherever possible.”

    Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.