An Australian court has cleared the way for people to identify as neither male nor female on government documents, after protests by a genderless activist went global.

Friday's landmark decision by the New South Wales Court of Appeal overturned a previous ruling that only legally recognized citizens as a man or a woman on their birth, death and marriage certificates.

A third option — "non-specific" — can now be listed as a valid gender status. 

The decision was a victory for Sydney-based sexual equality crusader Norrie, who sought in 2010 to reflect a non-sex status in the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

The 52-year-old, who identifies as a gender-neutral neuter, was the first Australian to be given the designation "sex not specified," but that classification was later withdrawn after just four months as Norrie's story became more widely reported.

'Persuasive' effect for other states

Allowing people to identify as neither male nor female has potentially broad implications for future babies who could be born with ambiguous genitalia. It will also allow people who classify themselves as neuter, androgynous, intersex (a designation that replaces the outdated term "hermaphrodite") or transgender to determine their own sexual identity.

Hugh de Kretser, with the Human Rights Law Centre, told Australia's The Age newspaper that the court's decision will likely have a "persuasive" effect that will provide legal guidance for states beyond just New South Wales.

"Agencies, non-government organizations will be looking to apply this more broadly," de Krester said.

Norrie is referred to by the gender-neutral pronouns "zie" (instead of he/she) or "hir" (instead of him/her).

A Toronto couple two years ago made international headlines when they told the Toronto Star about their plans to raise their four-month-old baby, Storm, without a gender. The child's parents said they wanted Storm to grow up and eventually decide on a gender for him or herself.