Maryland voter registration to allow for ‘X’ gender identity

BALTIMORE — The Maryland State Board of Elections will soon allow people to choose “X” or “unspecified” as a gender, instead of male or female, on their voter registration.

The move comes as state Motor Vehicle Administration prepares to offer the third option for gender on driver’s licenses and state identification cards, in response to a new state law.

Some lawmakers and advocates in the LGBTQ community have pushed for government agencies to recognize residents who are “nonbinary” — meaning they don’t identify as either male or female. Driver’s licenses and ID cards are particularly important to individuals who are nonbinary, as they are used frequently — not only for driving, but also for identification in banking, housing and employment.

A poll in March found lackluster support for the idea among Maryland voters, with just 37% favoring adding the gender-neutral option to licenses. Fifty-one% of those polled were opposed.

Still, state lawmakers passed a bill earlier this year requiring the MVA to offer the option starting Oct. 1. The vote came largely along party lines, with mostly Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed. Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, allowed the measure to become law without his signature.

“I think that government forms should reflect the diversity of the people that the government is serving and representing, and this is one way of reflecting that,” said Del. Julie Palakovich Carr, a Montgomery County Democrat who asked state elections officials to consider making the corresponding change.

Palakovich Carr said she got the idea while taking a training class from Montgomery County elections officials for registering voters. The cities of Gaithersburg and Rockville have elections coming up this fall, and Palakovich Carr plans to register voters in hopes of boosting participation.

Elections officials will continue to use the paper applications that they already have on hand, but the next batch that’s printed will include gender options of “F,” “M” and “X.”

—The Baltimore Sun

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Another Florida body found in the mouth of an alligator: report

ORLANDO, Fla. — For the second time in a week, a body has been found in a Florida waterway in the clutches of an alligator.

The St. Petersburg Police Department responded on Thursday morning after a body was found in the mangroves of Lake Maggiore, according to a press release.

Media reports said witnesses saw the body being dragged around and surrounded by multiple alligators.

“I seen the gator chomping on it,” Otis Crawford told WFTS, an ABC affiliate serving Tampa Bay. WFTS said Crawford called police after seeing the body.

“I walked out onto the dock out there, took a video and kind’ve determined it’s something.” he told WFTS. “I’m glad I noticed before the gator got the body into the bushes and then nobody would have ever known.”

The release said “there are signs of alligator involvement, although due to the condition of the body it’s too soon to know the cause of death.”

The body has been recovered and taken to the medical examiner.

Last week, a body was found in a canal in south Polk County being consumed by an alligator. In that case, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission trappers caught the alligator and performed a necropsy to find a hand and foot of the victim, Michael Ford II, 45, of Wauchula, in the alligator’s stomach.

The autopsy on Ford revealed more lacerations and injuries caused by the alligator. It also revealed the apparent cause of death was drowning, the sheriff’s office said. Final cause of death, though, await toxicology results.

—Orlando Sentinel

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Woman caught on camera throwing paint on Confederate statue in North Carolina, police say

The video shows a woman walking down the road late at night carrying a bag before she doubles back and runs across the empty street to a Confederate monument in the median. She throws what police say is orange paint before running back the way she came.

Police say the woman defaced the statue in downtown Wilmington, N.C., at about 3 a.m. Thursday. They’re asking for help to identify the woman in the video.

A second Confederate statue nearby was vandalized at about the same time, WECT reports.

Both statues were cleaned Thursday but some paint stains remained, according to WWAY.

—The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

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Monitor: 13 civilians killed in airstrikes on Idlib countryside

DAMASCUS, Syria — Airstrikes late Friday by Syrian government warplanes and helicopters on areas in the countryside of Idlib killed 13 civilians, including children, a monitoring group said.

Seven children and three women were among those killed by the airstrikes that hit the village of Mouhambel, in the western countryside of Idlib in northwestern Syria, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

It added that several civilians were wounded.

Activists in Idlib said the village was targeted by at least 10 helicopter strikes that used barrel bombs — crude improvised unguided containers packed with explosives, fuel, shrapnel, glass, and other lethal material.

Barrel bombs have been used extensively by the Syrian government during the country’s 8-year civil war.

The watchdog said the planes and helicopters carried out roughly 98 overnight strikes on various areas in the western and southern countryside of Idlib.

Since late April, forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, supported by Russian air power, have been conducting a massive campaign against rebels in the provinces of Hama and Idlib, the last major opposition stronghold in the country.

The escalation has claimed more than 500 civilian lives, among them 145 children, and displaced more than 300,000 people, according to the Observatory.

—dpa

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