Sacramento - A bill that would alleviate the confusion, anxiety and even danger that transgender people face when they have identity documents that do not reflect who they are, has just passed the Assembly Judiciary committee in a 7-5 vote. Authored by Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), sponsored by Equality California and co-sponsored by the Transgender Law Center, the Vital Statistics Modernization Act (AB 433), would streamline current law and clarify that eligible petitioners living or born in California can submit a gender change petition in any jurisdiction in the State of California.
The bill would also allow people who were born in or who live in California to use a simplified process that requires medical certification from an attending physician that the individual has undergone "clinically appropriate treatment" to obtain a new birth certificate to reflect their gender.
"The process for transgender individuals to get a birth certificate that accurately reflects their gender is confusing and complicated," said Geoff Kors, Equality California Executive Director. "AB 433 would streamline the existing process for petitioning for a court order recognizing a change of gender and obtaining an updated birth certificate. The legislation would also guarantee that these determinations will be made by licensed physicians, not the government and would bring state law in line with federal standards while also alleviating confusion and misinterpretation."
This change aligns California's standards to the standards set by the United States Department of State for gender changes on passports.
"Transgender people, like all of us deserve to live with dignity and respect. For transgender people, something as simple as government recognition of their authentic gender identity goes a long way," said Kristina Wertz, Legal Director for the Transgender Law Center in her testimony before the committee. "AB 433 is a cost neutral way to ensure that happens."
California has allowed gender changes on birth certificates for the last 34 years. All but a handful of states allow for gender changes on birth certificates, and the US Department of State allows it for passports and people born on US territory abroad.
"There is no reason to make a federal case out of this," said Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, author of AB 433. "There is a simple legislative fix, and that's what I'm working on now." She expressed sympathy for the men and women in New York who have had to resort to a lawsuit to obtain appropriate birth certificates. "I think we can do better for people here."
Current California law allows transgender people born in or currently residing in California to submit a petition for a court order recognizing a change of gender and the issuance of a new birth certificate. The current statute states that a gender change petition to be submitted in the jurisdiction of a person's place of residence, despite the fact that case law has clarified that gender change petitions can also be submitted in the jurisdiction where a person was born. Additionally, current law conflicts with the medical standard applied by the US Passport Agency and current medical understanding of what is required for gender transition.