Governor Brown has signed two important transgender rights bills into law.  The first, the Gender Nondiscrimination Act, brings transgender rights out of the closet in California – making “gender identity and expression” its own protected category at work, at school, in housing, at public accommodations and in other settings. The second, the Vital Statistics Modernization Act, makes it easier for transgender people to get a court-ordered gender change and updated birth certificate.  It’s a big day for transgender folks in California!

These laws have been years in the making.  Through our statewide survey of almost 650 transgender Californians, the 1,200 calls that our legal team receives annually and our conversations with you at events around the state, we discovered two problems that continued to resurface:

  1. We found that California’s nondiscrimination laws were often not accessible to those who needed them the most. Employers, health care providers, housing authorities – even transgender and gender non-conforming people – were unaware that it is illegal to discriminate against transgender Californians. Our legal rights were hidden within the definition of “gender”, leaving many people in the dark about their rights, and many institutions out of compliance responsibilities. This had an especially severe impact on low-income and trans communities of color who tend to face employment discrimination at higher frequencies within transgender communities.
  2. We heard from many transgender people who were unable to change their birth certificates and other identity documents due to financial and medical barriers. Onerous and outdated standards for court-ordered gender changes created unfair and damaging barriers that disproportionately impacted trans people of color, immigrant trans people, low-income trans people and others who could not overcome the many hurdles to securing basic identity documents. These are identity documents we all need to work, travel, and be our authentic selves.

With the help of your input and our partners at Equality California and GSA Network, we came up with two legislative solutions to these problems.

  • The Gender Nondiscrimination Act (AB 887) takes existing protections based on gender and spells out “gender identity and expression” as their own protected categories in our nondiscrimination laws. By making these protections explicit, people will more clearly understand California’s nondiscrimination laws, which should increase the likelihood that employers, schools, housing authorities, and other institutions will work to prevent discrimination and/or respond more quickly at the first indications of discrimination.
  • The Vital Statistics Modernization Act (AB 433) will alleviate the confusion, anxiety and even danger that transgender people face when we have identity documents that do not reflect who we are. The bill will streamline current law and clarify that eligible petitioners living or born in California can submit gender change petitions in the State of California. The Vital Statistics Modernization Act conforms California’s standards to the standards set by the United States Department of State for gender changes on passports, and it makes common-sense changes to the law that ensure the process is simple for qualified petitioners to navigate.

Today these bills have become law, and this huge victory belongs to you! This legislative session, hundreds of transgender, gender non-conforming and ally Californians took action —  educating lawmakers, reaching out to the governor and sharing their stories with the media.

Our victory is a testament that California is at its best when we work together to realize the ideal that everyone should be treated fairly and equally. The barriers that transgender people face are life threatening and we applaud Governor Brown, Assemblymember Atkins and Assemblymember Lowenthal for their tremendous leadership to remove some of the obstacles that prevent transgender Californians from living as our authentic selves.