Nonbinary Gender ID Law Proposed for California

The Gender Recognition Act of 2017 proposed to the California State Senate would transition to an easier way to change gender on ID documents.

Joe Kukura/SF Weekly

Whether it’s fighting for immigrant rights or defending the environment, the state of California has quickly taken the lead on safeguarding rights that could otherwise be lost under President Donald Trump. That fight also extends to gender identity laws for trans people. The California State Senate is considering a bill that would make it easier to change gender on state-issued ID documents like driver’s licenses, and adds a third, nonbinary gender for these documents.

The bill is called the Gender Recognition Act of 2017, and was introduced Thursday by State Senator Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego). The bill would make it easier for trans people to change their genders on state issued document like driver’s licenses, birth certificates and name-change orders, and would add a nonbinary gender option for these state-issued documents,

“Our trans brothers and sisters are under attack in far too many parts of this country and this world,” co-sponsoring State Senator Scott Wiener said in a release. “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.”

The bill is known in legislative terms as SB-179, and was drafted with input from Equality California and the Transgender Law Center.

“Whether going through airport security, voting, or applying for a bank account, everyone needs an accurate ID to safely navigate life,” Transgender Law Center executive director Kris Hayashi said in the release. “Yet outdated laws and other barriers have blocked almost 70 percent of transgender people from updating all of their identity documents, and one-third of transgender people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.”

Should this law pass, California would become the only state with a third, nonbinary gender option on driver’s licenses and birth certificates. The law would also remove the requirement of obtaining a physician’s statement for gender changes, and would eliminate the requirement that a person filing for a gender change appear in court (unless a third party files an objection to their gender change petition).

View Comments