Changing Birth Certificates Now Easier for Transgender People

California's form to amend a birth certificate.
California's form to amend a birth certificate.

Transgender Californians seeking changes to their name and gender identities on birth certificates will no longer need to go through a lengthy and exploitative legal process. Effective today, individuals seeking a name change on a birth certificate are no longer required to publish their reflected name in a local newspaper. Additionally, they will no longer be required to attend a court hearing prior to authenticating the request.

"These new protections were created to improve the safety and privacy needs of transgender people seeking to obtain accurate and consistent identity documents," said Danny Kirchoff from the Transgender Law Center.

AB 1121, authored by Speaker Toni G. Atkins in 2013, ensures that one's gender identity is accurately represented on legal documents.

The bill was co-sponsored by the Transgender Law Center and Equality California, and aims to make it easier for transgender people to seek changes to properly reflect one's gender identity without going through so much red tape.

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The first component of the bill was implemented on Jan. 1. It eliminated the need to go through the court system to reflect a person's preferred gender change on a new birth certificate.

The old process for making changes to birth certificates involved the issuance of a court date and the payment of $435 for a gender or name change. An individual seeking to change the gender or name on the birth certificate would then be required to provide a physician's affidavit documenting the individual's gender transition.

Under the new provision, however, individuals would no longer be required to go through court. The individual would be responsible for sending the request to the State Registrar, which would then verify information from a physician and grant the request through a simplified administrative procedure.

"Under this change, an individual could simply apply directly to the Office of Vital Records to change the gender/and/or name on a birth certificate, supplying the required physician's affidavit to that office instead of to the court," the bill's language notes.

AB 1121 has also worked to streamline the birth certificate process while also protecting the rights of transgender people. It will also eliminate the discriminatory requirement for having transgender people publish and pay for their reflected name changes in media publications.

"A lot of our clients had major concerns about the safety issues of publishing the name change in the newspaper. And especially in recent years, a lot of publications have moved online and people's information about a person's old and new name would come up on Google search, and it's often really private information," noted Kirchoff from the Transgender Law Center.

"There's a lot of privacy and safety concerns that people had, and also the cost. Changing your name is essential for people to have to get to reflect name and gender," he added.

Another bill for transgender rights, AB 1577, or the Respect After Death Act, cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee last Thursday. If signed into law, it will ensure that death certificates will reflect the deceased's correct gender identity.

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