California's Assembly Bill 1121 went into full effect yesterday. The bill, authored by out lesbian Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown last fall, and makes California's name and gender change process the easiest in the nation.
Previously, transgender people born in California were required to obtain a court order if they wanted to update their birth certificate to reflect their correct name and gender. But under the stipulations of the new law, that requirement vanished January 1, and trans Californians are now required to submit a form and a doctor's note indicating that they have taken appropriate steps to change their gender directly to the state's Department of Public Health.
As of yesterday, Californians seeking a legal name change are no longer required to publish notice of that intent in a local newspaper. This change will save trans residents of the state significant amounts of money — as the required publishing of the announcement was at the trans individual's expense — and will better protect their privacy, allowing them to avoid uncomfortable and often dangerous outing that comes along with having a name change published. Additionally, residents are no longer required to attend in-person court hearings, which had typically added stress and placed the trans person's privacy at risk.
Equality California and Transgender Law Center — two sponsors of AB 1121 — celebrated the law's enactment.
“Today marks another step toward full equality for transgender Californians,” said Ilona Turner, legal director for the Transgender Law Center. “These simple administrative changes are going to make a huge difference for transgender people who continue to face unfair and burdensome barriers to being able to live authentically and free from discrimination.”
"AB 1121 is an important step toward protecting the privacy of transgender people and removing unnecessary governmental burdens," said Rick Zbur, Equality California executive director-elect. "We were proud to cosponsor this legislation with the Transgender Law Center and applaud Speaker Toni Atkins for her leadership."
In April, a New York Assembly member introduced a bill that would have removed New York's requirement to publish a name change. The bill passed the Assembly June 17, but as with the state's Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, the Senate opted against taking action on it before the end of the legislative session, effectively killing the bills.
Speaker Atkins has also authored the Respect After Death Act, a bill that would ensure death certificates correctly reflect the authentic gender identity of transgender individuals. The bill has passed the Assembly and awaits action in the Senate.