On December 30, 2020, the Brooklyn Democratic Party passed a law that allows non-binary and transgender people to run for county committee seats.
The Democratic Executive Committee voted unanimously to repeal the requirement that candidates running for county committee seats must run as either “female” or “male” members, as well as a gender quota that required two male and two female district leaders for each district, the Brooklyn Eagle first reported.
The new law means that “nonbinary people, transgender people, gender nonconforming people are welcome,” said Samy Nemir-Olivares, District Leader of Assembly District 53. “It sends a message that their humanity is recognized.” This also means that districts can have more than two women run for district leader positions, rather than limiting their candidacy by a gender parity quota, Nemir-Olivares said.
This law has come about after months of advocacy work. In March 2020, six trans and nonbinary people attempted to run for District Leader positions. The candidates did not mark their gender as either male or female on their candidacy petitions, and their petitions were disqualified by the Board of Elections in April.
In an op-ed for the Brooklyn Paper, the six candidates wrote, “We contend the gender-based discrimination ingrained in Brooklyn’s petitioning process violates the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution and our city and state human rights laws,” and filed a law suit to challenge the committee rules.
The lawsuit was dismissed by the Brooklyn Supreme Court, but the judge was sympathetic to the issue, encouraging the petitioners to bring the case back to the court if the Kings Country Democratic Party did not change the rule at the next organizational meeting. In August, the party launched a task force to investigate the issue and after a “very long and emotionally draining process,” says Nemir-Olivares, change came about.
“It was very hard and little traumatic,” said Jesse Pierce, District Leader of Assembly District 52. “While it didn’t have to be this hard, I think we came out with the right solution in the end.”
“Running for these positions is hard,” Pierce said. “Any steps we can take to make the process simpler and encourage people to participate are really important.”