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Democratic Party sued by non-binary candidates for forcing them to run as ‘male or female’

Vic Parsons April 9, 2020
Non-binary candidates sue Democratic Party over 'male or female' boxes

Derek Gaskill, a trans man who is one of six plaintiffs suing the Brooklyn Democratic Party. (Twitter/Derek Gaskill)

Six trans and non-binary candidates are suing the Brooklyn Democratic Party for forcing them to run as male or female without their consent.

The New York candidates left the gender field blank when they applied to run in the upcoming June and December elections, because there was only a male or female option.

They allege that the Board of Elections later filled out the gender fields without their consent, assigning them false genders based off their names, according to the Brooklyn Paper.

In a lawsuit filed on April 3, the candidates – who are running for county committee membership of the party, the lowest rung of elected office – say that the Brooklyn Democratic Party violated their right to due process and equal protection.

“For me as a trans person trying to engage with local politics, it was disheartening that there were only two options at county level,” said Derek Gaskill, a trans man who is one of the six candidates bringing the lawsuit.

“You have to declare that you’re male or female.”

The lawsuit, brought by plaintiffs seeking to represent county committees in New York’s Williamsburg, Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant, was organised by reform-oriented club New Kings Democrats.

The non-binary Democratic Party candidates argue that gender-parity rules, in place to ensure that a certain number of men and women represent each state assembly district and originally intended to encourage more women to join local politics, exclude non-binary people.

Nandani Bharrat, another of the plaintiffs, told the New York Daily News: “It’s exclusionary of so many expressions of gender. We don’t even need to list a gender at all.”

Bharrat, who is genderfluid, said that instead of being forced to select one of two genders, candidates should be able to fill in the gender box freestyle.

“In order for us to talk about politics, to be in a political space, to be in a community, you have to represent all parts of the community,” said Bharrat, a Bushwick resident.

At a higher level of politics in Brooklyn, these rules have already been eliminated to allow for two women – Rodneyse Bichotte and Annette Robinson – to hold the posts of executive committee chair and vice chair.

This would not have been allowed under the gender-parity rules, which state there must be one man and one woman in these posts.

The fact that these rules still exist at a lower level is unfair, the plaintiffs say.

“I think it’s important to discuss and honor the progress that was made with these rules, but it’s equally important to remember that a lot of women’s rights movements have excluded trans people,” Gaskill said.

A spokesman for the party declined to comment on the lawsuit but said the party is looking into the issues.

“We don’t comment on lawsuits but we are aware of it and it raises an important question,” said Bob Liff of George Arzt Communications in an email to the Brooklyn Paper.

“The same issue has come up in the Democratic state committee which is studying it and we are monitoring that.”

More: brooklyn democratic party, democratic party, Derek Gaskill, Nandani Bharrat, New York, non-binary, trans inclusive

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