Our Legal and Policy Work
In order to live safe, full, and authentic lives, it is essential that transgender people have access to identity documents, such as photo ID, that accurately reflect their current name, gender identity, and gender expression. However, many people are surprised to discover that there is no “one stop” process for getting a name and/or gender marker updated to match their gender identity on all documents. This is because each agency that issues identity documents has different requirements for changing name and gender markers, as well as a separate process for doing so. For example, changing the name and gender on a birth certificate does not ensure that it is also changed on a driver’s license. This means that a person has to contact each agency separately to change his or her documents. Through our helpline, we regularly provide callers information and resources needed to navigate the systems required to change all forms of ID documents.
A transgender man prohibited from changing his legal name because of his immigration classification is suing Indiana state officials. The lawsuit, filed by MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) and Transgender Law Center on behalf of a 31-year-old Indiana resident, alleges that a 2010 state law requiring proof of citizenship to obtain a change of legal name is unconstitutional. The suit alleges the citizenship provision of the Indiana law is a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause that guarantees individuals will not be discriminated against based on their alienage. Additionally, it violates the First Amendment right to freedom of speech by compelling speech from the plaintiff that betrays and falsely communicates the core of who he is, according to the complaint.
Transgender Law Center, along with co-counsel Irigonegaray and Associates and Caldwell Leslie & Proctor, PC, is representing Stephanie Mott in a lawsuit challenging the state of Kansas’s policy of refusing to update the gender markers on the birth certificates of transgender people. Filed in February 2016, the petition argues that denying transgender people amended birth certificates violates the constitutional right to equal protection and right to privacy—the ability to decide when and to whom to disclose one’s transgender status.
After a lower court ruled that they could not issue a legal change of gender to a transgender man known in court filings as “John Doe” because no Indiana statute addresses courts’ authority to issue such orders, Transgender Law Center helped him appeal the decision. Doe had previously successfully changed several of his identification documents, but had been told he needed a court-ordered change of gender in order to update his birth certificate. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the decision, deciding that even in the absence of a particular statute, the trial court had the authority to issue Doe’s change of gender under the statute that provides them with “general authority for the amendment of birth certificates.”
“I’m so relieved,” said Doe. “My birth certificate will finally show who I really am. Privacy is very important to me, and having a birth certificate that listed my sex as female was kind of scary- it could have outed me at any time and I never knew when someone might discriminate against me, or even try to hurt me, if they found out I was transgender. I’m really grateful to Transgender Law Center for taking on my case.”
In a groundbreaking victory for transgender people born in California, the California Court of Appeal ruled on in April of 2009 that individuals can petition a California court to amend their California birth certificates regardless of their current states of residence. Previously, only current California residents could bring these petitions in California courts.
The case was brought by Transgender Law Center on behalf of Gigi Marie Somers. Ms. Somers, a sixty-seven year old transgender woman, was born in California and now lives in Kansas.
For more detailed information please click here.
Policy & Advocacy
Transgender Law Center advocates for laws and policies to increase access to identity documents that reflect a person’s current name and gender identity.
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).
Under this law:
- The process for transgender people born in California to obtain an accurate birth certificate was made easier 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. (Effective 01/01/14)
- Individuals seeking to obtain a name change for purposes of gender transition are no longer required to: (a) publish their name change order in a newspaper; or (2) attend an in-person court hearing unless another person challenges the name change. (Effective 017/01/14) request.
These new protections were created to improve the safety and privacy needs of transgender people seeking to obtain accurate and consistent identity documents.
This bill was signed into law by Governor Brown in October 2013 and took effect in 2014.
For more information, click here.
AB 433 was a 2011 California bill sponsored by Transgender Law Center and Equality California, and authored by Assembly member Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) .This law clarified the documentation and residency requirements for obtaining a California court-ordered gender change.
Under this law:
- The medical standard for obtaining a court ordered gender change & updating the gender on a California issued birth certificate from “sex reassignment surgery” to “clinically appropriate treatment for the purposes of gender transition”
- This law also clarified that both individuals born in California and individuals who currently reside in California may petition a California court for a gender change.
This bill was signed into law by Governor Brown in October 2011 and took effect in 2012.
For more information, click here.
“Alex” (not his real name) is an undocumented transgender man from Mexico who lives in San Francisco. In 2011 he came to our office seeking our help to legally change his name so that his immigration paperwork could be issued under his current masculine name. In 2012, thanks to the changes to California’s gender change law, we were also able to help him file for a court-ordered gender change. We helped him fill out the paperwork and explained to his doctor how to write a letter confirming that he had clinically appropriate treatment for gender transition.
As Alex told us, “Estoy muy agradecido y feliz por la ayuda de Transgender Law Center. Yo no habría sido capaz de cambiar mi nombre y el género legal sin ellos. Me solía sentir vergüenza cuando mi identificación no coincidía con mi género. Ahora me siento mucho más cómodo. Su ayuda se ha hecho una gran diferencia en mi vida.” (“I am so grateful and happy for the help of Transgender Law Center. I would not have been able to change my name and legal gender without them. I used to feel embarrassed when people saw that my ID didn’t match my gender. Now I feel much more comfortable. Their help has made a huge difference in my life.”)
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