Proposed State Law Would Allow Non-Binary Party Candidates

2020 GCN Impact Awards
Émilia Decaudin at the 2020 Gay City News Impact Awards.
Donna Aceto

State lawmakers have proposed new legislation that would allow non-binary candidates to run for party positions in New York State and eliminate gender-based barriers requiring folks to run only as a female or male.

The legislation, named the Gender Inclusive Ballot Act, would encompass positions for State Committee, Assembly District Leader, and County Committee. The measure would maintain existing rules intended to establish gender diversity, as it stipulates that the offices should have leaders of different genders rather than opposite sexes.

Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas of Queens and State Senator Zellnor Myrie of Brooklyn proposed the bill — and it was co-authored by Émilia Decaudin, an out trans Democratic district leader in Queens’ 37th Assembly District, as well as attorney David Siffert.

The legislation follows a drawn-out battle to allow non-binary individuals to run for county committee seats in Brooklyn and comes two years after Decaudin spearheaded a similar effort in the State Democratic Committee to remove barriers for non-binary candidates.

Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas of Queens is the lead sponsor of the bill in the lower chamber.Donna Aceto

Unsurprisingly, the bill already has strong support from LGBTQ political groups and community organizations serving queer individuals, including Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders (SAGE), the Ali Forney Center, GAPIMNY — Empowering Queer & Trans Asian Pacific Islanders, Housing Works, the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn, Princess Janae Place, and SAGE, as well as the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City and the Pride Center of Staten Island, according to González-Rojas’ office.

In a written statement, González-Rojas said her legislation would address a “gender justice issue.”

“Before serving as a legislator, I ran to be and represented my community as a state committee member. Throughout my career, I have advocated with and on behalf of LGBTQ communities. I believe that it is time that we do away with a binary gendered way of engaging New Yorkers,” González-Rojas said in a written statement. “If we truly believe in making our Democratic party a big tent party, then we have to make room for everyone and leave no one out of being able to politically engage. People who are non-binary deserve to be state committee people, district leaders, and county committee members just as much as their cisgender neighbors do.”

Decaudin expressed her appreciation to González-Rojas and Myrie for proposing the legislation.

“The inability of non-binary people to run for most political party offices is a glaring defect in our election law that must be corrected for the sake of justice,” Decaudin said. “I am immensely grateful to Assemblymember González-Rojas and Senator Myrie for introducing A7933/S6901 —  taking the initiative to correct this defect and finally allow people of all genders to participate at this foundational level of our democracy,” Decaudin said in a written statement.

The legislation is co-sponsored in the Assembly by Harvey Epstein of Manhattan and Andrew Hevesi of Queens and in the State Senate by Jessica Ramos and Michael Gianaris of Queens and Robert Jackson and Brad Hoylman of Manhattan.