Governor Signs 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 was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown today. 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.

ãToday California made it easier for people who are transgender to live authentic lives by removing unnecessary barriers to name changes and identity documents,ä said John OâConnor, EQCA executive director. ãThis is a common sense solution to ensure that transgender Californians are treated fairly and with respect. We thank Gov. Brown and Assemblymember Atkins for their leadership.ä

ãOne step in enabling transgender people to live authentic lives consistent with their gender identity is to ensure that their names and their official documents are consistent with who they are,ä said Assemblymember Toni Atkins. ãI am very pleased that the Governor signed my bill to move us forward toward equality and dignity for transgender Californians.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.

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. The birth certificate provisions go into effect January 1, 2014; the name change provisions will take effect July 1, 2014.

“Transgender Law Center receives hundreds of calls each year from folks who have experienced difficulty in legally changing their name and gender in California and have experienced discrimination and threats of violence due to having identity documents that do not match who they truly are. We are incredibly grateful to the Governor, Assemblymember Atkins, and all of the brave members of our community who spoke up for this important legislation,ä said Masen Davis of the Transgender Law Center.

AB 1121 will 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.