Nonbinary People Recognized by Oregon Court of Appeals

Enby Oregonians may now have their gender status officially recorded. 

On Wednesday, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that nonbinary Oregonians are entitled to change legal records to correct their gender status. 

Provided a nonbinary resident has gone through the legal process to register their change in gender identification, circuit court judges are required to grant them nonbinary as a gender marker. It might seem odd that a driver’s license or birth certificate has already had a nonbinary option, but that’s because changes to those documents were administrative matters, rather than legal ones. 

This case originates with Eugene resident Jones Hollister, age 53, who brought a petition to Lane County Circuit Judge Charles Carlson in 2019. Carlson denied the petition, one of at least eight Hollister knows of denied by the judge, and Hollister appealed. The Court of Appeals ruled that it has already been established that a Circuit Court Judge has “authority to grant the requested change of legal sex”, and had concluded that this authority extended beyond designating a person male or female. “Rather, the new sex designation must affirm the petitioner’s gender identity whether that is male, female, or nonbinary”. 

“It is really strange to have paperwork that doesn’t match when it talks about who you are,” Hollister told OPB. “It should be all the same. The same name, same birthday, same gender. And so I wanted to have the legal judgement from the court, which is now case law.” 

“I wanted to have that so that when I go talk to these institutions that don’t currently have an option besides male or female, I can be like, ‘Look, this is a court case saying this is the fact, and so how do I make it so I am not lying on this paperwork for you? How are you going to change your paperwork so it has an option?’” 

The ACLU of Oregon, the Oregon Department of Justice and others filed briefs in support of Hollister. 

No party opposed the case, so it will not be appealed to a higher court. It will remain the law of the land in Oregon unless it is challenged at some later date. 

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum issued a statement about the ruling, saying in part, “This decision ensures that all transgender, gender-diverse, and gender non-conforming Oregonians — including those who identify as nonbinary — can obtain documentation that accurately reflects their gender identity.”  

Hollister and their spouse celebrated the ruling with cake. They expect to receive updated paperwork in a few weeks. 

John M. Burt