Calif. Senate OKs bill to aid transgender citizens with name changes, identity documents

Toni Atkins

Toni Atkins

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The California state Senate on Friday approved a bill to provide transgender citizens improved access to legal name changes and identity documents that accurately reflect their gender identity.

The bill (AB 1121), authored by Assemblymember Toni Atkins and co-sponsored by Equality California and the Transgender Law Center, was approved in the state Assembly on May 9 and now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown for approval.

Toni Atkins

While some states have administrative procedures that permit transgender people to amend the gender marker, name or both on their birth certificates, California curenly requires a court hearing as a prerequisite before the state’s 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 individuals’ access to corrected birth certificates and reduce the caseloads of overwhelmed courts.

The bill 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, said he 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.”

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Atkins said the bill will provide transgender people with “a simple, inexpensive, and private process for changing their names and documents to be consistent with their gender identity.”

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.

Last month, Brown signed the School Success and Opportunity Act into law, a landmark bill to ensure transgender youth have equal opportunities to fully participate and succeed in schools programs across the state.

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