Senator Joan B. Lovely
State Senator
2nd Essex District


July 28, 2023

Senate Passes Legislation to Provide Free ID Cards to People Experiencing Homelessness and Allowing Nonbinary Gender Option on Birth Certificates, Drivers’ Licenses 

BOSTON – The Massachusetts Senate on Thursday voted unanimously to pass An Act to provide identification to youth and adults experiencing homelessness, to establish a process allowing an adult or youth experiencing homelessness to apply for a free Massachusetts identification card. Identification cards enable access to basic services in the Commonwealth that are often unreachable for those without identification. The Senate also passed An Act relative to gender identity on Massachusetts identification, a bill that would allow, for the first time in Massachusetts history, an individual to be identified with a non-binary “X” sex designation on their birth certificate and enshrine into law the current practice of allowing an individual to select a non-binary “X” gender designation on their driver’s license. This is the fourth consecutive session during which the Senate has adopted similar legislation.  

“Proud to join my Senate colleagues to pass these two bills that take steps to remove barriers and promote equity and inclusion for all Massachusetts residents,” said Senator Joan B. Lovely (D-Salem). “The first bill waives prohibitive fees and documentation to apply for a state ID for youths and adults experiencing homelessness, and the second bill ensures individuals have the ability to express their gender identity on state identification. I am grateful to Senate President Spilka, Chair Rodrigues and the Senate sponsors for prioritizing these bills and for their leadership on these critical issues.” 

“Fees and documentation are not just barriers to identification. By extension, they are barriers to getting a job, accessing healthcare, and applying for services—the most basic of necessities,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “These barriers harm the most vulnerable people in our Commonwealth, and eliminating them is a compassionate step that makes the path to stability a little bit easier. I’d like to thank Senator Robyn Kennedy for sponsoring this bill, Senator Crighton for his support, and my colleagues in the Senate for moving forward with this important piece of legislation.” 

“When we listen to our homeless youth about the challenges they face, there is a common denominator and that is access to identification,” said Senator Robyn K. Kennedy (D-Worcester), the Senate sponsor of the bill. “Having proper identification is the foundation to accessing food, shelter and employment opportunities, while also breaking the cycle of poverty.” 

People experiencing homelessness currently face prohibitive fees and documentation requirements that can be barriers to acquiring identification. This legislation removes those barriers by eliminating fees and only requiring that applicants present documentation showing that they are currently receiving services provided by the Commonwealth, a homeless service provider, or another service provider.  

Having a state identification is a prerequisite for accessing many basic services, including applying for a job, enrolling in school, interacting with law enforcement, accessing government buildings, and opening bank accounts, among others. The struggles of homelessness are compounded by an inability to access these basic services, and often contribute to a cycle of poverty.  

“Giving people the opportunity to be who they are is a human right, and one that we are proud to extend to every member of the Commonwealth, regardless of how they identify,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Allowing a nonbinary option for state licenses and birth certificates is fundamental to building a society that welcomes, protects, and respects all individuals. I first introduced similar legislation as a senator back in 2017, and I’m grateful to Senator Comerford for her steadfast leadership on the issue this session, and to Senator Creighton for his support and advocacy for moving this bill along. I am as hopeful as ever that Massachusetts will be able to enshrine this change into our state laws this session, and continue welcoming everyone into our Commonwealth with open arms.  

“People know what gender they are. This bill affirms the ability of people to choose a non-binary gender option on state documents and forms, which would align the Commonwealth with many other states that have adopted this designation,” said Senator Jo M. Comerford (D-Northampton), the Senate sponsor of the bill. “I am grateful to Senate President Spilka for advancing the work on this bill before I took office, and to Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues for his support of this legislation. Together, with our partners in the House, we will continue to move our Commonwealth to embrace this basic human right.” 

Under current law, it is impossible to have a sex designation of “X” listed on a birth certificate in Massachusetts, and in order to change one’s sex designation, an applicant must provide a notarized statement from a physician stating that the individual has completed medical intervention.  

The legislation passed today would allow an individual to be identified with an “X” sex designation on their birth certificate. In addition, the legislation allows any person over the age of 18, emancipated minor, or parent of a minor, to request a change in the sex designation on a birth certificate without being required to present any medical documentation, court order, or proof of name change. Individuals would only need to present a signed affidavit “attesting that the request is to conform to the person’s gender identity and is not made for any fraudulent purpose.” The legislation also makes it easier for individuals who change the sex designation on their birth certificate to also change the name on their birth certificate. 

The legislation would put Massachusetts alongside 26 states around the country which currently allow residents to change the sex designation on their birth certificate without the need for a court order or medical documentation. 16 states currently allow residents to have a sex designation of “X” on their birth certificate.  

On drivers’ licenses, individuals are currently allowed to select “X” as their gender designation; however, the practice is not codified into law. This bill would enshrine this option into state law, to ensure residents will always have this option. Massachusetts is currently one of 22 states that allow residents to have a gender designation of “X” on state drivers’ licenses. 

The legislation also directs the administration to develop a plan to add a non-binary option on all forms or documents issued by state agencies that require a gender to be listed. 

While considering the bill, the Senate unanimously adopted an amendment from Senator Barry Finegold (D-Andover). that empowers individuals to amend the gender designation on their marriage certificate to conform with their gender identity. 

This is the fourth consecutive session during which the Senate has adopted similar pieces of legislation. Both bills now move on to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration.