Currently, the federal government requires people applying for a passport to check one of two boxes: “male” or “female.” Dana Zzyym, a Navy veteran from Colorado who was born intersex, is challenging that requirement in federal court. Zzyym seeks a ruling that will allow them to receive a passport reflecting that they were born intersex. When they applied for a passport during the administration of President Barack Obama, the State Department refused to issue a passport because Zzyym had not checked either the “male” or the “female” box. Instead, they had marked an “X” to signify that they were intersex. Zzyym won in a federal court last year, only for the federal government to appeal that ruling.
Nine states, including New Jersey, are supporting Zzyym’s pursuit of equal rights for non-binary people. New Jersey already allows its citizens to put an “X” on birth certificates to denote that a person is intersex. (Only five other states use this rule.) Earlier this year, in fact, New Jersey enacted a law that allows non-binary residents to change a pre-existing designation as “male” or “female” on birth certificates issued in the state. The law specifically provides that using an “X” will signify an intersex individual.
New Jersey is intervening in the case because of the potential impact on the rights of its intersex residents. The state filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief in favor of Zzyym’s position. One of the arguments that it raises involves the use of the “X” designation by the International Civil Aviation Organization. This is an agency of the United Nations that is designed to codify policies and techniques for international air travel.
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