Target: President Pro Temp of the California Senate Darrel Steinberg, California Senate Majority Leader Ellen M. Corbett, Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff.
Goal: Allow transgender Californians to receive official documents reflecting their gender and name without a court hearing.
The California State Assembly has just passed a bill, Assembly Bill 1121, that would allow transgendered Californians to legally change their name and gender without a court hearing or publication of their name change in a newspaper. This bill would make it cheaper, easier and less time-consuming for transgendered Californians to obtain vital documents that reflect their true identities while reducing the crowded schedules of our state courts.
Under current law, in order for an individual to obtain a legal change of gender and name in California they must file a petition with a state court. It costs $435 for an individual to file a petition, not counting the cost of having an attorney review their forms to check for errors. After filing the petition with the court, the individual then needs to publish their intention to change their name in a newspaper for at least 4 weeks, adding to their expenses and exposing their personal decision to the public. Following that, the individual must then attend a court hearing and receive an order from a judge authorizing the Office of Vital Records to change their name and birth certificate.
AB 1121 would allow transgendered individuals to change their name and gender with much greater ease and significantly lower cost. Under AB 1121, an individual could obtain an amended birth certificate simply by submitting an application to the Office of Vital Records along with an affidavit from their doctor confirming that they are receiving clinically appropriate treatment for their gender transition. The name change procedure would also be streamlined,
The current process for a legal name and gender is expensive, complicated, time-consuming, violates the privacy of transgendered Californian’s, and burdens a court system that is struggling to meet increasing demands with diminishing resources. Transgendered persons suffer greatly when there are unable to obtain identity documents that correspond to their gender. Looking like one gender but having a driver’s license or ID card that lists another makes everything from getting a job to exercising the right to vote more difficult. Being forced to out oneself every time that identification is required exposes transgendered Californians to humiliation and the possibility of mistreatment, yet the very process for changing one’s name and gender currently involves a great deal of public exposure. Transgendered individuals, especially transgendered women, are already subject to disproportionate discrimination and violent crime. Transgendered persons are also disproportionately poor, due to employment discrimination, family rejection, and the cost of medically transitioning, yet the current process is expensive, and involves trips to court and time off from work that many simply cannot afford. The state should not make living an authentic and happy life more costly or painful for any class of citizens, especially those for whom in is already particularly difficult.
AB 1121 would be good for all Californians. It would allow transgendered Californians to obtain vital documents matching their gender identity and name with greater ease and speed and at less cost. It would preserve the need for a medical doctor to assert that the individual is receiving the proper treatment for their gender transition, while making the process more private and less likely to expose a transitioning individual to embarrassment or retaliation. And it would reduce the caseload of our state’s courts, conserving precious judicial resources. Please sign this petition and let Governor Brown and the California Senate know that you support AB 1121.
Dear Governor Brown and Members of the California State Senate,
Recently, your colleagues in the State Assembly approved a bill, AB 1121, which is now before you. This bill would reform the process by which transgendered Californians may obtain a legal change of name and gender, making the process for a legal gender change easier, more streamlined, and private. I urge you to support this bill and to vote for it.
The current process for a legal change of name and gender is expensive, time-consuming, violates the privacy of transgendered Californians, and makes inefficient use of our state’s constrained judicial resources. Under current law, a person wishing to change their name and gender must submit five documents, including an affidavit by a licensed doctor affirming that they are receiving “clinically appropriate” treatment for their transition, and pay a filling fee of $435. The person must then publish in a local newspaper their intention to change their name for at least four consecutive weeks. The point of changing one’s legal name and gender is to avoid confusion, exposure, and discrimination resulting from appearing as one gender but having identifying documents of another, but the very process to rectify that situation involves extreme exposure. After publication, the individual must then attend a court hearing to obtain a decree ordering the State Registrar to issue a new birth certificate. The costs of filling and publication impose an unjust burden on an already disproportionately impoverished minority group, and the publication requirement involves unnecessary and humiliating exposure and the possibility of reprisal. The cost of the process is multiplied by the financial burden of taking time away from work or children to go to court. Beyond the transgendered community and their family and friends, the entire state is burdened by unnecessary and inefficient use of our courts.
Under AB 1121, an individual would be able to directly petition the Office of Vital Records for a new birth certificate matching their gender identity. AB 1121 would also streamline the name change process, sparing transgendered Californians from the expense and embarrassment of four weeks of publication in a newspaper. The bill will preserve the need for a doctor’s affidavit, but it would not force individuals to expose their medical histories and their deeply personal decisions to the public in order to live complete lives. The bill would also free up valuable judicial resources at a time when budget cuts and increasing demand have resulted in backlog of cases and tragic delays in the administration of justice.
Transgendered Californians have it hard enough. They are born into bodies incongruous with their identities, and to change that incongruity, they must suffer great physical and emotional pain as well great financial hardship, all while subject to derision, rejection, and sometimes outright violence by an unsympathetic society. The state should not make life any harder than it already is for any of its citizens, especially those who already suffer more than most. I strongly urge that you approve this bill and send it to the Governor to sign into law.
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