A bill directing state agencies to assess what would be necessary for Connecticut to offer a non-binary gender option on state forms sparked a brief and one-sided debate Wednesday in the House of Representatives.
The House voted 124 to 26 to pass the bill, with the measure’s sponsors pointedly refusing to engage three opponents who argued there is no non-binary gender, and persons so identifying should not be accommodated.
“In my world, there’s only two sexes. There’s a male or a female,” said Rep. Gale Mastrofrancesco, R-Wolcott. “There is no non-binary. People can certainly identify however they choose, and I have no problem with that.”
Except for filling out government forms. She has a problem with that.
U.S. passports now are issued with a non-binary gender option, and the federal government currently is considering regulations standardizing the treatment of gender on its forms.
“We’d like to incorporate whatever recommendations the federal government has, and this will allow our state agencies to do so,” said Rep. Matt Blumenthal, D-Stamford, co-chair of the Government Administration and Elections Committee.
Mastrofranceso, the ranking House Republican on the committee, said that was no reason to act, rejecting any notion of permanency in federal policy or what constitutes a federal government.
“Just because the federal government recommends it doesn’t mean that we do it,” Mastrofrancesco said. “And the federal government is whoever is in control right now. And that could change at any time.”
She pressed Blumenthal to explain non-binary.
“When we talk about a non-binary gender, what are we referring to? Can I get an explanation on exactly what that means?” she asked.
Blumenthal replied with 12 words: “We’re referring to anyone who does not identify as male or female.”
Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Granby, followed Mastrofrancesco’s lead.
“As the ranking member said, there are two sexes, male and female,” Anderson said. “I understand and sympathize with those people who have gender dysphoria. But when it comes to law, we need to reflect objective reality, what some call natural law.”
Gender dysphoria is not necessarily synonymous with non-binary gender but rather is a reference to transgender, a person whose sex assigned at birth, usually based on external genitalia, does not align their gender identity.
Non-binary is described in the Human Rights Campaign’s glossary as “an umbrella term” that would include individuals who see their gender as fluid or do not identify as male or female.
Rep. Francis Cooley, R-Plainville, sees nothing fluid about gender. To him, it is fixed and binary.
“There are a number of people who live a variety of different lifestyles, but at the end of the day, we have objective reality and sexes — male and female,” Cooley said. “And if we’re going to have government documents, it should reflect the objective reality, not someone’s preference.”
Blumenthal did not respond.
Rep. Jeff Currey, D-East Hartford, one of four openly gay members of the House and a sponsor of the bill, initially cast the change as merely a bureaucratic exercise.
“We are checking all of our boxes — no pun intended — crossing T’s, dotting I’s to ensure that we are not creating any sort of systems that are going to be contrary to that of any federal requirements,” Currey said.
He smiled and conceded the bill had more meaning: It offered a small measure of recognition and acknowledgement to a minority that cannot always be easily defined, as is an evolving LGBT coalition now variously defined as LGBTQ, LGBTQI, or LGBTQIA.
Currey said change is natural, even as it applies to state forms and how they refer to gender.
“We as a state of Connecticut are continuing to evolve, again, something humankind has done since the day we began to walk this earth,” Currey said. “And with that evolution is the recognition of residents of the state of Connecticut that currently don’t feel recognized.
“So we will acknowledge we will affirm their persistent, insistent and consistent identities.”
Every Democrat voted for the bill. Of the 52 Republicans present, they were evenly divided, 26-26. House Minority Leader Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford, voted for the measure, as did his top deputies.
Rep. Tim Ackert, R-Coventry, who voted for the bill, had but one question for Blumenthal: Would the assessment explore if or when any gender identity is relevant on a state form?
Blumenthal replied, “That is certainly part of the assessment that the agencies can perform.”