Great news: the final piece of AB 1121 goes into effect today. AB 1121 was a 2013 California bill sponsored by Transgender Law Center and Equality California, and authored by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego). It was signed into law by Governor Brown in October 2013.
The first phase of the law, which went into effect January 1, made it easier for transgender people born in California to obtain an accurate birth certificate by removing the requirement that they present a court-ordered gender change in order to amend a gender marker on a birth certificate. Instead, they now have the option to just submit a form and a doctor’s letter directly to the state Department of Public Health along with a $23 fee.
Under the second part of the law, which becomes effective today, those seeking a name change to better match their gender identity are no longer required to publish the change in a local newspaper. Also effective today, those seeking to obtain a name change for purposes of gender transition will no longer be required to attend an in-person court hearing unless another person challenges the name change request. These new protections were created to improve the safety and privacy needs of transgender people seeking to obtain accurate and consistent identity documents.
Below is a brief FAQ that explains the changes. Please let us know if you need more information.
Will I need to publish my legal name change in a newspaper?
If you are seeking to change your legal name to better match your gender identity, then you are no longer required to publish notice of your legal name change in the newspaper.
Will I have to attend a court hearing for my name change?
You will not have to attend a court hearing for your name change—as long as you are ONLY seeking a name change, and not a combined name and gender change—unless the name change request is contested by another person. When you submit the name change forms to the court, you will be given a court date. If no one challenges your name change request within two days of your assigned court date, then you will not have to attend the hearing (You can call your court clerk’s office to find out if anyone has contested your name change).
If you are also seeking a court-ordered gender change, you WILL have to attend a hearing. (You do not need to have a gender change court order to amend your birth certificate.)
In California, you are not required to submit a court ordered gender change to amend the gender marker on your California issued birth certificate or state issued identification. If you choose to get a court-ordered gender change, however, you still must attend a hearing. For people living in California but born elsewhere, a California court-ordered gender change may or may not be helpful in updating the gender marker on a birth certificate issued from a different state. Even for those born in California, having a gender change order from a court as well as an amended birth certificate could provide extra legal security that your gender will be entitled to recognition in other states. Visit www.transgenderlawcenter.org/help to ask our helpline for more information!
How much will it cost to get a court ordered name change?
The court filing fee for a name change, or a gender change, or a name and gender change, is $435 in all California counties except for San Francisco and Riverside where it costs $450. There are income based fee waivers available for those who qualify.
How do I amend my California issued birth certificate without a court order?
The California Department of Public Health has issued guidance on what is required to amend your California issued birth certificate (.pdf). Please contact us at www.transgenderlawcenter.org/help if you need more information.
How do I know which forms to fill out to obtain a name change court order (or a gender change court order, or a name and gender change court order)?
Please contact the California court self-help center website for information about which forms to file: http://www.courts.ca.gov/1051.htm.