Samy Nemir-Olivares, District Leader in Brooklyns AD523, Williamsburg and Bushwick (Instagram/SamyNemir)
The Brooklyn Democratic Party has voted unanimously to remove gender requirements from its county committee seats after it was sued by six trans and non-binary candidates.
A lawsuit was brought by six candidates who were allegedly forced to run as either male or female without their consent due to rules requiring an even split of male and female candidates for county committee seats – the lowest run of elected office – with no provision for non-binary people.
The case was thrown out earlier this year by a Kings County Supreme Court judge, who cited procedural issues and argued the case was filed too late in the election cycle.
However, the Brooklyn Democratic Party has decided to alter the rules anyway, paving the way for non-binary trans candidates to be able to run under their true gender.
Rodneyse Bichotte, assembly member and district leader for the Brooklyn Democratic party said: “Our task force’s unanimous recommendation that we remove gender designations as a requirement to run for office is not only the right decision, it is the only acceptable decision.
“No one should be barred from participating in our party and we have now set a precedent for progress for Democrats across the nation.”
The candidates that sued the party left the gender field blank in their applications to run in the elections, but alleged that the fields were filled out for them based on their names by the Board of Elections.
In their lawsuit, the six trans and non-binary candidates argued that their right to due process and equal protection under the 14th amendment of the US constitution was violated.
The quotas were brought in to increase female representation in New York politics.
The previous binary gender quotas were based off a 1939 State Constitution amendment to encourage more women to pursue careers in politics. However, it has been criticised for disenfranchising non-binary hopefuls.
The rules have already been eliminated at higher levels of politics in Brooklyn. This allowed Bichotte to hold the role of executive committee chair alongside Annette Robinson, the vice chair. The gender parity rules would have required one of those positions to be held by a man.
Bushwick district leader Samy Nemir-Olivares was among the group campaigning for reformation of the rules.
“Women must have better and more representation at all levels of politics,” Nemir-Olivares said. “But the way to achieve women’s participation doesn’t have to come at the expense of gender exclusion of the most marginalised.”
Bichotte announced the task force on gender discrimination and representation, which pushed through the reform, in August this year. Shortly after the announcement, she added trans representatives to the task force: non-binary AIDS activist Jason L. Walker and trans activist T. S. Candii.
Derek Gaskill, another of the six people behind the lawsuit, said: “For me as a trans person trying to engage with local politics, it was disheartening that there were only two options at county level.”