California now legally recognizes a third gender -- "non-binary" -- for those who do not identify exclusively as male or female.
The Sacramento Bee reported that Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB179, the Gender Recognition Act, on Sunday night, allowing a third gender choice on driver's licenses and state identification cards. Additionally, the new law and eases requirements for transgender people to change their gender on identification documents.
CBS News notes that "non-binary" is an "umbrella term that includes any person who identifies with a gender that falls outside of the traditional male/female or man/woman."
While California joins Oregon and Washington, D.C. in recognizing gender neutral individuals on driver's licenses, it's the first state to do so on birth certificates. The added gender option for driver's licenses will be effective Jan. 1, 2019.
Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, said in a statement that the bill puts California at the "forefront of ensuring the dignity and safety of its transgender, non-binary and gender-non-conforming residents."
"When your ID doesn't match your gender identity or expression, it can expose you to potentially dangerous situations," Zbur said. "SB 179 eliminates unnecessary obstacles from the process of getting state-issued identification documents for thousands of Californians."
Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, called the move "groundbreaking."
"We are always being asked to show our identification at the airport, at banks and for nonbinary people and transgender people to go through life without identification that reflects who we are can be truly dangerous," Hayashi said.
The legislation has received significant pushback from conservative and pro-family groups, however, including the California Family Council, which argued that the bill "advances a lie; that being male or female, or no gender at all, is a choice each person has a right to make."
"The state of California no longer believes in the dictionary definition of a man or a woman, which says sex is determined by certain physical characteristics," the organization said in a statement. "Now in California any man can declare themselves a woman, and any woman can use the word 'man' for self identification, no questions asked, no physical proof required."
It continued, "The words 'man' and 'woman' now describe feelings, and those feelings don't have firm definitions. Consequently, the words 'man' and 'woman' are meaningless. And if you don't think the binary gender choices describe your subjective feelings, you can pick a new legal gender 'non-binary.' Feelings, not facts now determine reality."
The group warned that the passing of the bill "will not be the end of our journey into irrationality." In fact, it says it's "just the beginning."
"Just watch what happens now that state leaders have established that feelings are more reliable than physical facts when determining what is real and what is true. God help us."