Atkins, Wiener Announce Bill to Create New Gender Marker and Ease Process for Gender Change in Court Orders and on State Documents

Senators Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) today announced legislation to enable more transgender, intersex and nonbinary people to obtain state-issued identity documents that accurately reflect their gender. The bill is sponsored by Equality California and the Transgender Law Center.

Senate Bill (SB) 179 would accomplish this by creating a third, nonbinary gender marker on California birth certificates, drivers’ licenses, identity cards and gender-change court orders. The bill also streamlines the processes for Californians to apply to the state for a change in gender on these identifying documents.

Our society is becoming more enlightened every day about gender identity,” said Atkins. “It’s time for our state to make it easier for transgender Californians and those who don’t conform to traditional notions of gender to have state-issued identification documents that reflect who they truly are. This bill will help them avoid the discrimination and harassment that too many of these residents face in their daily lives.”

Current law creates onerous and unnecessary barriers for people who wish to apply for a change in gender on their state-issued identity documents. One of the most significant of these barriers is the requirement of a physician’s sworn statement certifying the extent of medical treatment received by someone during their gender transition. Additionally, a person seeking a gender-change or name-change court order must appear in court even if nobody has filed objections to their petition. Finally, there are no provisions in state law that allow nonbinary people – those who self-identify as neither male nor female – to choose a gender marker on state documents that reflects their gender identity.

“Our trans brothers and sisters are under attack in far too many parts of this country and this world,” said Wiener. Now, more than ever, California must lead on trans inclusion and ensure that our entire community can live with dignity and respect. This legislation is an overdue step forward.”

Senators Atkins and Wiener’s legislation would:

  • remove the requirement to obtain a physician’s sworn statement;
  • ensure that those filing petitions for gender-change court orders, as well as corresponding name-change court orders, need not appear in court for a hearing unless someone has filed timely objections to their petitions;
  • create a process by which individuals younger than 18 years old can apply for a change in gender on their birth certificate; and
  • create a third gender marker for nonbinary individuals seeking to amend their gender on birth certificates, driver’s licenses and state identification cards, and in gender change court orders.

“This bill honors an individual’s most basic right: self-identification,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. “It is up to an individual – not a judge or even a doctor – to define a person’s gender identity. This groundbreaking legislation will ensure that California supports and values its transgender and gender non-conforming residents and fully includes them in the fabric of our society.”
“Whether going through airport security, voting, or applying for a bank account, everyone needs an accurate ID to safely navigate life,” said Kris Hayashi, executive director of Transgender Law Center. “Yet outdated laws and other barriers have blocked almost 70% of transgender people from updating any of their identity documents, and one-third of transgender people have been harassed, assaulted, or turned away when seeking basic services. SB 179 will help California lead the way in reducing these barriers and help ensure that everyone can be legally recognized for who they are and can move safely through the world.”