California Legislature Passes Bill to Aid Transgender Californians with Name Changes, Identity Documents

Assembly Bill 1121, authored by Assemblymember Toni Atkins and co-sponsored by Equality California and the Transgender Law Center, passed the Assembly last week by a bipartisan vote of 56-18, with an official vote count pending. The bill will help ensure people who are transgender have better access to legal name changes and identity documents that accurately reflect their gender identity. The bill will continue to Gov. Jerry Brownâs desk.

ãMy bill provides transgender people with a simple, inexpensive, and private process for changing their names and documents to be consistent with their gender identity,ä said Assemblymember Toni Atkins. ãI am grateful for the support of my legislative colleagues for this simple step that will have a big impact on quality of life and personal safety for transgender Californians.ä

ãEvery Californian deserves the freedom to live as their authentic selves, and AB 1121 removes significant barriers to that freedom,ä said John OâConnor, Equality California executive director. ãHaving documents that reflect who you really are is crucial to achieving full equality, and EQCA is proud to see this bill advance to the Governorâs desk. We thank Assemblymember Atkins for her continued leadership.ä

In 2011, the National Transgender Discrimination Survey showed that 44 percent of transgender people reported having been denied service, harassed or assaulted when presenting identity documents that did not match their gender presentation.

ãAs a transgender man myself, I have experienced both the discrimination that often accompanies having identity documents that do not match oneâs gender identity as well as the burdensome process of revising identity documents. This important bill will mean more transgender people will be able to go about their daily activities – from voting to applying for jobs ö without being unfairly outed or put in danger,ä said Masen Davis, Executive Director of Transgender Law Center. ãWe are grateful for the leadership of Assemblymember Atkins who continues to champion fairness for all Californians.ä

While some states have administrative procedures that permit transgender people to amend the gender marker, name or both on their birth certificates, California still requires a court hearing as a prerequisite before the stateâs Office of Vital Records will change the gender marker on a birth certificate.

Court fees are currently $435 for a gender change or name change petition. AB 1121 will allow individuals to bypass the court and apply directly to the Office of Vital Records to amend a birth certificate. That will both streamline individualsâ access to corrected birth certificates and reduce the caseloads of overwhelmed courts.

AB 1121 would also make the name change process more private and affordable for transgender people, exempting them from the requirement that a person pay to publish a notice of the intended name change in the local newspaper for four weeks. Sajian Bernard of Sacramento, who testified in hearings before the Assembly Judiciary Committee, has been trying to legally change his name and gender for several years. He told the committee, “I’m really uncomfortable about the way that the newspaper notice is so public, basically announcing to everyone in the world that I’m trans. Whenever I’m outed as trans it’s humiliating, and could actually put me in danger.”

Equality California (EQCA) is the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy organization in California. Over the past decade, Equality California has strategically moved California from a state with extremely limited legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to a state with some of the most comprehensive human rights protections in the nation. Equality California has partnered with legislators to successfully sponsor more than 90 pieces of pro-equality legislation. EQCA continues to advance equality through legislative advocacy, electoral work, public education and community empowerment.

Transgender Law Center works to change law, policy, and attitudes so that all people can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or expression.