Atkins, Wiener Announce SB 179 to Create New Gender Marker and Ease Process for Gender Change in Court Orders and on State Documents

Thursday, January 26, 2017

~~With help from Equality California and the Transgender Law Center, Senators Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) today announced the introduction of legislation, SB 179 – The Gender Recognition Act of 2017, that will enable more transgender, intersex and nonbinary people to obtain state-issued identity documents that accurately reflect their gender.

The bill accomplishes this by creating a third, nonbinary gender marker on California birth certificates, driver’s licenses, identity cards and gender-change court orders. The bill also streamlines the processes for Californians to apply to the state for a change in gender on these identifying documents.

Current law creates onerous and unnecessary barriers for people who wish to apply for a change in gender on their state-issued identity documents. One of the most significant of these barriers is the requirement of a physician’s sworn statement certifying the extent of medical treatment received by someone during their gender transition. Additionally, a person seeking a gender-change or name-change court order must appear in court even if nobody has filed objections to their petition. Finally, there are no provisions in state law that allow nonbinary people – those who self-identify as neither male nor female – to choose a gender marker on state documents that reflects their gender identity.

Senators Atkins and Wiener’s legislation would:

  • remove the requirement to obtain a physician’s sworn statement;
  • ensure that those filing petitions for gender-change court orders, as well as corresponding name-change court orders, need not appear in court for a hearing unless someone has filed timely objections to their petitions;
  • create a process by which individuals younger than 18 years old can apply for a change in gender on their birth certificate; and
  • create a third gender marker for nonbinary individuals seeking to amend their gender on birth certificates, driver’s licenses and state identification cards, and in gender change court orders.

“Our society is becoming more enlightened every day about gender identity,” Senator Atkins said. “It’s time for our state to make it easier for transgender Californians and those who don’t conform to traditional notions of gender to have state-issued identification documents that reflect who they truly are. This bill will help them avoid the discrimination and harassment that too many of these residents face in their daily lives.”

Senator Wiener said, “Our trans brothers and sisters are under attack in far too many parts of this country and this world. Now, more than ever, California must lead on trans inclusion and ensure that our entire community can live with dignity and respect. This legislation is an overdue step forward.”

Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, added, “Whether going through airport security, voting, or applying for a bank account, everyone needs an accurate ID to safely navigate life. Yet outdated laws and other barriers have blocked almost 70 percent of transgender people from updating all of their identity documents, and one-third of transgender people have been harassed, assaulted, or turned away when seeking basic services. SB 179 will help California lead the way in reducing these barriers and help ensure that everyone can be legally recognized for who they are and can move safely through the world.”

Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, added, “This bill honors an individual’s most basic right: self-identification. It is up to an individual – not a judge or even a doctor – to define a person’s gender identity. This groundbreaking legislation will ensure that California supports and values its transgender and gender non-conforming residents and fully includes them in the fabric of our society.”