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California Recognizes Gender Identification on State Issued Documents

As society continues to develop and grow, many states have recognized the right of citizens to be issued driver licenses and other forms of identification that reflect their accurate gender identification.  Gender identification is a deeply personal issue that should not be infringed upon by any government, especially during the issuance of various forms of identification.

In a new law enacted on January 1, 2019, the California State Legislature has adopted and enacted a legal process by which all citizens can be issued a Birth Certificate, State Identification Card or California Driver License that accurately reflects the person’s choice of gender identification.  Senate Bill (SB) 179, authored by Sens. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by Equality California and the Transgender Law Center, makes California the second state in the country, after Oregon, to legally recognize a nonbinary gender.

“Our society is becoming more enlightened every day about gender identity,” Senator Atkins said. “It’s time for our state to make it easier for transgender Californians and those who don’t conform to traditional notions of gender to have state-issued identification documents that reflect who they truly are. This bill will help them avoid the discrimination and harassment that too many of these residents face in their daily lives.”

This Bill immediately amends several sections of the California Vehicle Code, the California Code of Regulations and the California Health and Safety Code.  By enacting this law, it is now the policy of the State of California that every person deserves full legal recognition and equal treatment under the law to ensure that intersex, transgender, and nonbinary people have state-issued identification documents that provide full legal recognition of their accurate identity.

Birth Certificates

Known as the “Gender Recognition Act,” State Bill 179 permits any person who was born in the State of California to apply for a new birth certificate from the State Registrar that accurately reflects their choice of gender.  Previously, California Law only permitted an applicant to apply for an amended birth certificate if they had undergone clinically appropriate treatment to change their gender.  The new Gender Recognition Act omits the requirement for clinical treatment; provided the applicant execute a declaration stating that the use of a new birth certificate is not for fraudulent purposes.  By requiring the declaration, the fraudulent use of an amended birth certificate would be considered a criminal act, punishable by law.

Health and Safety Code Section 103440 is amended to read:

The new birth certificate established pursuant to this article shall supplant any birth certificate previously registered for the registrant and shall be the only birth certificate open to public inspection. The application and supporting affidavit filed pursuant to Section 103426 shall be filed with the original record of birth that shall remain as a part of the records of the State Registrar. All records and information specified in this article, other than the newly issued birth certificate, shall be available only upon written request of the registrant or an order of a court of record.

When a new birth certificate is established under this article, the State Registrar shall transmit copies of the newly established birth certificate for filing to the local registrar and the county recorder whose records contain copies of the original certificate, who shall forward the copies of the original certificate to the State Registrar for filing with the original certificate, if it is practical for the local registrar or the county recorder to do so. If it is impractical for the local registrar or the county recorder to forward the copy to the State Registrar, the local registrar or the county recorder shall effectually seal a cover over the copy of the original certificate in a manner as not to deface or destroy the copy and forward a verified statement of the action to the State Registrar. Thereafter the information contained in the record shall be available only upon written request of the registrant or on order of a court of record.

Driver License/Identification Cards

State Bill 179 also amends particular sections of the California Vehicle Code so that an applicant for a new driver license/identification card, or a person applying to renew such a document, may amend their gender to reflect one of the following:

  • Male
  • Female
  • Non-Binary

It is the intent of the California Legislature to provide three equally recognized gender options on state-issued documents so that people may apply for amended designations in an efficient and fair process.  Once issued, the law requires that a person’s accurate gender identification be honored and legally recognized.

California Vehicle Code Section 12800 is amended to read: 

Each application for an original or a renewal of a driver license or identification card shall contain all of the following information:

(a) (1) The applicant’s true full name, age, gender category, mailing address, residence address, and, social security account number.

(2) The applicant shall choose their gender category of female, male, or nonbinary.

(3) The department shall not require documentation for an original driver’s license applicant’s initial choice of a gender category or a licensed applicant’s request for an amendment to a gender category other than the following:

(a) The applicant’s self-certification of their chosen gender category.

(b) Documentation required by this code and the California Code of Regulations as necessary to establish that an applicant is lawfully entitled to a license.

(c) A brief description of the applicant for the purpose of identification.

(d) A legible print of the thumb or finger of the applicant.

(e) The type of motor vehicle or combination of vehicles the applicant desires to operate.

(f) Whether the applicant has ever previously been licensed as a driver and, if so, when and in what state or country and whether or not the license has been suspended or revoked and, if so, the date of and reason for the suspension or revocation.

(g) Whether the applicant has ever previously been refused a driver’s license in this state and, if so, the date of and the reason for the refusal.

(h) Whether the applicant, within the last three years, has experienced, on one or more occasions, either a lapse of consciousness or an episode of marked confusion caused by a condition that may bring about recurrent lapses, or whether the applicant has a disease, disorder, or disability that affects his or her ability to exercise reasonable and ordinary control in operating a motor vehicle upon a highway.

(i) Whether the applicant understands traffic signs and signals.

(j) Whether the applicant has ever previously been issued an identification card by the department.

(k) Any other information that is necessary to enable the department to determine whether the applicant is entitled to a license under this code.

(l) The department shall adopt regulations to provide a process for an amendment to a gender category.

(m) This section shall become operative on January 1, 2019.

(n) This section shall become inoperative on the effective date of a final judicial determination made by any court of appellate jurisdiction that any provision of the act that added this section, or its application, either in whole or in part, is enjoined, found unconstitutional, or held invalid for any reason. The department shall post this information on its Internet Web site.