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Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan Introduces Bill to Include Nonbinary Gender Options on Death Certificates

For immediate release:

AB 439 would codify inclusive gender identity options on death certificates, bringing these documents in line with California’s existing nonbinary options on driver’s licenses and birth certificates. 

Sacramento, CA – Today, Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer Kahan (D-Orinda), in partnership with Equality California, introduced AB 439 which will include death certificates among the official documents with nonbinary options for gender identity.

The bill will expand on Senator Toni Atkins’ 2017 legislation, SB 179, which authorized nonbinary identification on birth certificates, court documents, and driver’s licenses. California is leading the nation in inclusive recognition of gender identities, and this bill continues and strengthens that work.

“Adding nonbinary as a gender option ensures nonbinary individuals’ right to equal treatment under the law, and is a needed step towards true inclusivity throughout our legal codes,” said Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan. “Historically, U.S. law has not recognized the many ways people experience gender. This causes serious pain and marginalization for nonbinary communities, with their existence denied on documents that identify them.” 

It is essential to codify inclusive language to establish uniformity and parity across California’s legal system. Incorrectly assigning deceased nonbinary individuals a gender is disrespectful to their memories. Official erasure hurts grieving loved ones, as well as the larger nonbinary community.  

“Affirming someone’s gender identity is just as important in death as it is in life,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur. “We owe it to our nonbinary community members — and their loved ones — to correctly recognize the gender identity of all Californians on their death certificates. Equality California applauds Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan for continuing the work started by Pro Tem Toni Atkins in 2017 to right this wrong.”

Nonbinary youth who reported that their pronouns were not being respected by those in their lives have been twice as likely to attempt suicide as those whose correct pronouns were used. With suicide rates among nonbinary youth quadruple those of their peers, affirming language on death certificates is all the more essential.

This bill takes the precedent set by Senator Atkins in SB 179, as well as current practices of using nonbinary-inclusive language and codifying it to bring outdated code language in line with California’s values, ensuring long-term protection of the nonbinary community’s civil rights. 

Coauthors of the bill include Assemblymembers Evan Low (D–San Jose), Alex Lee (D-Santa Clara), Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona), Chris Ward (D-San Diego), David Chiu (San Francisco), Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Laura Friedman (D-Burbank), Mark Stone (D-Santa Cruz), Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), and Senators Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) Susan Talamantes-Eggman (D-Castro Valley) and John Laird (D-Santa Cruz).