California Gender Bill

California Gender BillWith tumultuous changes occurring politically and legally in the United States, California seems to be fighting to maintain a more Democratic stance in an increasingly Republican country. In a recent course of action, the state has proposed the bill SB 179, which would add the option of a third gender on legal government documents such as a driver’s license or a birth certificate. Essentially, the bill, proposed by senators Toni Atkins of San Diego and Scott Wiener of San Francisco, allows for a third gender on official documentation so that those who identify as non-binary would be able to state as such.

Furthermore, the proposed bill will streamline the process for any individual wishing to alter their stated gender on any legal documents –no longer requiring the written confirmation of a registered physician ensuring treatment of gender transition while also allowing those who are younger than 18 years of age to apply for a legal change of gender on their documentation. Instead, as stated in the official legislation, an individual seeking a change of gender on their birth certificate would submit an application to the State Registrar and undergo an affidavit attesting that they simply seek to match their official documentation with their gender identity and not acting for fraudulent purposes, under penalty of perjury. This is a triumph for the LGBTQ community and a beginning for greater rights for the Transgender, Intersex, and non-binary people of California. While there is no word yet on what the official non-binary marker will be on documents like a driver’s license, there is suggestion to use the letter ‘X’ alongside ‘M’ and ‘F’ for male and female, respectively, as is done in both Australia and New Zealand.

The proposal of this new bill that will aid in the removal of the numerous bureaucratic hurdles in place against transgender and non-binary individuals –contrasting majorly with states that continue to argue over the rights of transgender individuals to use public bathrooms, including student use of school bathrooms. Some would argue that, as everyone from police officers to the federal government rely on the accurate depiction of individuals on their driver’s license, that this bill puts the community at risk, allowing for people to exploit discrepancies between legal documents. However, Senator Wiener stated, “as the LGBT community — but especially the Trans community — is under assault in this country, California needs to go in the opposite direction and embrace the Trans community and support the Trans community and modernize these laws”. The response from the LGBTQ community has been positive: Jo Michael, an advocate with Equality California stated in an interview that “as a person who identifies as transgender and is non-binary, this piece of legislation is important to [him] on a personal level” and that “for the first time, Californians could have accurate gender markers that truly reflect who [they] are”.

While the bill was only proposed on January 24th, the attitude concerning it remains hopeful as California makes a more equitable stand for its residents.

Inability to Maintain Privacy in Sexual Assault Case

Judge Wendy Matheson, of the Ontario Superior Court, made the finding that the “deemed undertaking” was broken in a sexual assault case when two Toronto lawyers exchanged hundreds of papers of information relevant to the case. The complainant, a young woman, asserts that she was sexually assaulted by the defendant on two occasions, once in Waterloo, Ontario and once in Toronto. Furthermore, she is asking around 1.5 million in damages from both the defendant and the University of Youth Criminal Justice ActWaterloo for failing to have proper security systems in place to prevent the assault. While the defendant has so far been acquitted in Waterloo, the trial in Toronto has been adjourned to next month, although it is a wonder on how the court will proceed with the case now that there has been such a breach of information. The trial falls under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, as the complainant was less than 18 years of age at the time of these incidents, making this exchange of personal information even more serious.

Because of the nature of these documents (and the fact that they were shared without notice to the court, the woman or her legal counsel), the court and all legal representation involved must examine the possibility of impeachment, meaning the bringing into question of the use of these documents as evidence in the case, as per the Rules of Civil Procedure. According to Matheson, “The Rules of Civil Procedure have acknowledged that plaintiffs remain entitled to some measure of protection of their privacy and are entitled to limitations on the use of their discovery evidence outside the proceedings for which the discovery was compelled”, meaning that the passing of information with notifying the court, as was the case, violates not only the privacy of the individual but also make the information less likely to stand in a court of law. “The plaintiff/complainant’s documentary productions comprised hundreds of pages of documents. They include extensive private information,” stated Matheson in a ruling. The documents in question were later reported to contain medical records, counselling records, medical test results, photographs, and even academic records and grades of the complainant.

“The moving party argued strenuously that notice would defeat the possible impeachment in this case. I understand that the defendant would prefer the element of surprise,” continues Matheson’s ruling. “But even in the criminal context, the element of surprise is not available to the defendant/accused when seeking access to this type of record.” This means that because of the necessity for privacy for those who claim to be victims of sexual assault, the unauthorized distribution of information will for those involved to consider the breach of privacy first as the trial continues in February which will likely prove in favour of the plaintiff over the defendant.