Lieu bill would allow transgendered people new birth certificates

By Gene Maddaus Staff Writer

Posted: 05/26/2009 07:33:19 PM PDT

Once an opponent of same-sex unions, South Bay Assemblyman Ted Lieu is running for attorney general as a strong supporter of gay marriage and an opponent of Proposition 8.

But Lieu has also taken it a step further, authoring legislation that would allow all transgendered people born in California to get a new birth certificate reflecting their new gender – even if they no longer live in the state.

“To me, it’s about freedom and accuracy,” Lieu said. “If you have transitioned and now you are a woman, all your documents should reflect that.”

In 1977, California became the first state to allow transgendered people to switch the gender on their birth certificates. But a recent court case showed that California natives who move to another state may not have the same right.

The case involved Gigi Marie Somers, a 67-year-old Kansas woman who had undergone gender reassignment surgery in 2005. Kansas is one of a handful of states that does not allow transgendered people to switch their gender on official documents, so Somers, who was born as a male in Los Angeles, asked a California judge for a new birth certificate.

The judge ruled that as the law was written, only current California residents could apply. Somers appealed, and the state Court of Appeal reversed the ruling last month.

Lieu’s bill, AB 1185, would codify that ruling statewide. It passed the Assembly on a party-line vote of 48-30 Thursday, and is now headed to

the Senate. Assemblymen Van Tran and Steve Knight, who voted against the bill in committee, were unavailable to discuss the issue on Tuesday.The bill was sponsored by Equality California, a statewide gay rights organization, and was among the group’s top legislative priorities.

“It’s really important that your identity reflect your lived-in gender,” said Alice Kessler, the group’s government affairs director. “There’s not an enormously large group of people that this will affect, but for the people it does affect, it’s an enormously important thing in their lives. It’s a basic dignity issue.”

Equality California has not made an endorsement in the attorney general’s race, but Kessler said that Lieu has a perfect score on the organization’s report card.