The New York Civil Liberties Union and Legal Services of NYC sued the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) for discriminating on the basis of gender identity against nonbinary New York residents.
OTDA’s computer system—which determines access to food stamps, Medicaid, and many other programs and emergency services—bars nonbinary people from applying for or receiving benefits unless they misidentify their gender as “male” or “female” under oath. This conflicts with state and municipal policies that recognize gender “X” on identification documentation, including birth certificates, violating the state constitution as well as state and local anti-discrimination laws.
OTDA’s refusal to update its systems has severe consequences for nonbinary New Yorkers. They must choose between lying under oath about their gender identity in order to receive the benefits to which they are entitled—and consequently being misgendered by the government employees who manage their case—or, if they seek to be recognized as nonbinary, being denied emergency assistance or facing unnecessary delays.
In the lawsuit, the NYCLU and Legal Services NYC demand that OTDA add “X” as a valid gender identity option in the state benefits system, update related materials and guidance, and retrain social services staff in all localities on gender-affirming conduct when serving nonbinary New Yorkers in need.