New York courts to expand gender options on jury documents

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York's court system is planning to expand the gender options on jury documents to be more inclusive of people who do not identify as male or female.

The system aims to have the updated juror information card set for distribution by early January, said state court spokesman Lucian Chalfen. Gender options on the new cards will include female, male, transgender, nonbinary, intersex and other, he said. The cards have only male and female gender options right now, he said.

The court system is also changing up its juror questionnaire, which is used during the jury selection process and features a question with a check box for female or male. The updated document will offer a question asking a person how they would like to be addressed, allowing them to be called a juror or another title.

"People don't easily fit into boxes that can be checked," said state Sen. Brad Hoylman. The Manhattan Democrat said strict binary options may leave out New Yorkers who do not identify as male or female or do not want to identify.

Hoylman, who sent a letter to the court system last month pushing for the expansion, said adding gender options can help mitigate discrimination in jury selection and lead to a more reflective jury pool. Plus, he said, being forced into an incorrect gender identity is awkward and uncomfortable.

"This is a step in recognizing the reality of nonbinary identification," he said.

New York is not the first state to shift its gender options.

In Massachusetts, a jury questionnaire leaves an open area for people to identify their own sex or gender identity, said Jury Commissioner Pamela J. Wood. People can respond however they like to the gender portion of the questionnaire, which was changed within the past two years, she said.

Whatever their answer, Wood said, it provides valuable information on whether they are appropriate jurors.

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This story has been corrected to delete inaccurate information from a state court spokesman that juror information cards tell people when they must appear for jury duty.

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Ryan Tarinelli is a corps member for Report for America, a nonprofit organization that supports local news coverage in a partnership with The Associated Press for New York. The AP is solely responsible for all content.