On January 24 two senators, Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) proposed a bill that would add a nonbinary gender option on legal documents (birth certificates and driver’s licenses.) The Senate Bill 179 – the Gender Recognition Act of 2017 – will allow Californians to identify with their true gender identity on a legal level.
If the Legislature approves the bill and will be signed by Governor Jerry Brown, it will go into effect on January 1, 2018. Thereby, making California the first state to put a nonbinary gender option on legal documents.
This is a major step for advancing the LGBT rights in the state. In the past, California proved to be more concerned about the legal protection of minorities than any other state. People who are transgender or intersex will no longer have to identify as female or male, which they are not.
There is another change that will come with the bill. It would be no longer necessary to obtain a letter from their doctor attesting to medical treatment for gender transition.
Among other benefits of SB 179 will allow people under 18 to apply for an update of their gender on birth certificates. The bill will also push the process of changing gender identification on legal documents. It will require the court to deliver a judgment and to apply the change withing 28 days after filing the petition.
What did the senators who proposed the bill say?
Here is what Toni Atkins and Scott Wiener, both of whom belong to the LGBT, commented on why the law was necessary.
Wiener said that California needs to stand up for LGBT while other states try to marginalize it. As an example of discriminatory policy, he brought the discriminatory bathroom bills for transgenders. “It important for California to go in the other direction and embrace our transgender brothers and sisters.”He added that modernizing the laws would make it easier for people to go through the complicated transition.
Atkins brought up a number of examples when gender identity becomes problematic. People going through airport security or using their credit card to buy something. All of this while “their ID doesn’t exactly look like or match who they present themselves to be.”
Atkins was also the one who authored Assembly Bill 1121. The Name Changes and Birth/Death Certificate Act is meant to simplify the process of legally changing one’s gender. Brown signed the bill to become a law in 2013.
The senators expect some opposition from groups that were against other equality work as well. “I can just imagine the comments we might get from some of our colleagues,” Atkins said. Nevertheless, she also believes that they will draw a lot of support as well. Both senators hope that this will send a powerful nationwide message.
“We’re not backing down on equal rights in any way, shape, or form … We’re moving forward,” said Atkins.
The legislation does not yet make it clear what the alternative sign on the documents will be. Other countries, such as New Zeland, for example, used the letter “X” alongside “M” for male and “F” for female, according to Sasha Buchert of the Transgender Law Center.
Atkin’s office says that the Gender Recognition Act will probably reach the full California Senate for a vote until spring. The policy committee which will review the bill first will hardly take place until March.