On Wednesday, May 7th, California’s Respect After Death Act, AB 1577, was passed by the Assembly Appropriations Committee in a 14-3 bipartisan vote, and will now head to the Assembly floor.
The Respect After Death Act was authored by Assembly Speaker-elect Toni Atkins and cosponsored by Transgender Law Center and Equality California. The bill will ensure that death certificates reflect the authentic lived gender of the deceased, with various forms of proof accepted under the law, including written confirmation of the deceased’s wishes, an updated birth certificate or driver’s license, or medical documentation of gender transition.
Current law requires death certificates to list personal data such as name, sex, and race, but provides no legal guidance about how the official filling out the death certificate should determine a transgender person’s sex. The lack of guidance sometimes results in cases where the information on the death certificate is not consistent with the deceased’s lived gender. This can put funeral directors and coroners at risk of liability if the friends and family of the deceased believe that they listed the incorrect sex.
“Too often, the identities of transgender people are disrespected, especially when we are unable to speak for ourselves. Gender identity represents a core part of who we are as people and this identity should be recognized even upon our deaths,” said Masen Davis, executive director of Transgender Law Center. “When a loved one is not honored as their authentic self upon their passing it is extremely painful for the family, friends, and community.”