California Becomes First State to Allow 'Nonbinary' Gender on Birth Certificates

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on October 19, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

California Governor Jerry Brown this weekend signed the Gender Recognition Act into law, allowing state residents to choose or change gender on a birth certificate to be female, male, or nonbinary. It is the first state do so, and is the third, along with Oregon and Washington, D.C., to allow gender neutral drivers licenses.

While the bill applies to new birth certificates, it also eases the restrictions on birth certificate and drivers license changes, eliminating the requirement that a gender change applicant have undergone any treatment prior to the change. Here's a look at the new law.

Nonbinary Recognition

In regard to gender changes, the Gender Recognition Act would authorize petitioners "to attest, under penalty of perjury, that the request is to conform the person's legal gender to the person's gender identity and not for any fraudulent purpose," and courts would be allowed to change gender by court judgment to female, male, or nonbinary. (There would be separate procedure for petitioners under 18 years old.)

The bill would allow an applicant for an original driver's license or renewal of a driver's license to choose a gender category of female, male, or nonbinary, and require the Department of Motor Vehicles to provide a process for amending a gender category. As noted above, the Act will "delete the requirement that a person have undergone any treatment to seek a court judgment to recognize a change of gender" on either document.

LGBTQ Leadership

State Senator Toni Atkins, a Democrat from San Diego, co-authored the bill, and said it will "eliminate unnecessary stress and anxiety for many Californians, and it exemplifies the leadership role that our state continues to take in LGBTQ civil rights."

"I want to thank Gov. Brown," Atkins said in a statement, "for recognizing how difficult it can be for our transgender, nonbinary, and intersex family members, friends, and neighbors when they don't have an ID that matches their gender presentation." The majority of the Act's provisions will take effect in September 2018.

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