Bill to streamline transgender name changes signed by governor

SACRAMENTO -- Assembly Bill 1121, authored by Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), was signed into law by Governor Brown on Tuesday. The bill provides transgender people seeking legal name changes to reflect their gender identity with a streamlined and inexpensive process that protects their privacy.

Current law requires a transgender person to obtain a court order and to publish the name change application in the newspaper. This process can be expensive and also publicly exposes the person to potential discrimination, harassment or even violence because of being transgender.

AB 1121 creates a new administrative option for transgender people seeking to amend the gender marker on a California birth certificate through the State Registrar. It also deletes the costly newspaper publication requirement.

"Transgender people are entitled to have their official documents and their legal name reflect their true identity without a burdensome and expensive process that endangers their personal safety," Atkins said. "This bill improves the lives of transgender Californians because it creates a simpler, more affordable, and safer process. I am very pleased that Governor Brown agrees and that he has signed my bill."

Transgender people’s understanding of themselves as male or female is different from the sex they were assigned at birth. Medical science recognizes this condition as Gender Dysphoria and prescribes specific treatments to help the transgender person transition physically so their bodies match their gender identity. This often includes surgery, medication, and mental health support.

The transition to living in accord with one’s gender identity also involves a legal process because birth certificates and a person’s name usually reflect the sex they were assigned at birth. In California, a person seeking a court-ordered name change has to publish a notice in a newspaper for four weeks. They are also required to have a public hearing before a judge, the record of which is also public. The process is lengthy and can be expensive.

44% of transgender people experience discrimination, harassment and assault. A public name change process heightens the likelihood of these occurring. AB 1121 allows the transgender person to avoid the public notice and court process by applying directly to the state Office of Vital Records for a name change.

AB 1121 is sponsored by Equality California and the Transgender Law Center.

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