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A bill advancing in the state legislature that would allow Marylanders to designate an “X” gender classification on their driver’s license means that LGBTQ high school students who drive will face fewer uncomfortable situations, one advocate says.

Mark Eckstein, the LGBTQ chairman of the Montgomery County Council of PTAs, said Thursday that the bill is key to helping high school students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.

“I think it sends a great message of affirmation for LGBTQ students in [county schools],” he said.

Eckstein estimates 2 percent of students identify as transgender.

A bill sponsored by Sen. Will Smith, a Democrat representing Silver Spring and Takoma Park, passed the Senate Wednesday, and a version in the House of Delegates sponsored by Del. Sara Love is scheduled for a committee hearing Thursday afternoon.

The Motor Vehicle Administration would be required to issue licenses or identification cards listing “M” for males, “F” for females and “X” for gender-neutral at the request of the applicant.

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Eckstein said many non-gender binary students, who don’t identify as male or female, feel uncomfortable in public facilities where they must show their driver’s license, and when they interact with police.

“When you have a driver’s license and it doesn’t match your gender expression, it can lead to heightened interactions with law enforcement because the police officer might get the idea that you’re not being honest,” he said.

Eckstein added that County Police Chief Tom Manger has taken steps to hold regular meetings with LGBTQ community leaders, and that the county police have several in-house policies aimed at increasing tolerance toward the community.

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Love, a Democrat who represents Bethesda, said she anticipates the House of Delegates will also pass the proposal.

“There is no opposition to the bill,” she said.

Love said the “X” gender designation would apply to driver’s licenses, moped operator permits and other forms of state identification. The bill is based on existing laws in five other states and the District of Columbia.

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Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdda-remix.newspackstaging.com