Equality California
Assembly Passes Bill to Aid Transgender Californians with Name Changes, Identity Documents
May 9, 2013

CONTACT: Steve Roth, OutThink Partners
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Assembly Passes Bill to Aid Transgender Californians with Name Changes, Identity Documents

(SACRAMENTO) Assembly Bill 1121, authored by Assemblymember Toni Atkins and co-sponsored by Transgender Law Center and Equality California, passed the Assembly today by a vote of 57-16. 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.

“My bill provides transgender people with a simple, inexpensive and private process for changing their names and documents to be consistent with their gender identity,” said Atkins. “I am grateful for the support of my Assembly colleagues for this modest reform that will make a big difference to transgender people’s quality of life and personal safety.”

“The freedom to live as our authentic selves is core to our identities as individuals and Californians,” said John O’Connor, Equality California executive director. “AB 1121 removes a significant barrier to full equality for people who are transgender, and EQCA is proud to see it pass the Assembly. We thank Assemblymember Atkins for her leadership.”

“Having identity documents that accurately reflect who you are is vital in so many areas of everyday life — from applying for a job to exercising our rights at the ballot box,” said Masen Davis, Executive Director of Transgender Law Center. “Many of us wouldn’t think twice when asked to show our ID, but this is a very serious issue for transgender people.”

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 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.

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 last week 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."

Ilona Turner, Legal Director at Transgender Law Center, concluded, “AB 1121 provides common-sense reforms to streamline an overly complicated legal process. We are very pleased that the committee passed this bill, and we are incredibly grateful to Assemblymember Atkins for authoring it.”

The bill now moves to the state Senate for consideration.

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. www.eqca.org

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. www.transgenderlawcenter.org

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