US: California Assembly passes bill for trans-friendly death certificates

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The California Assembly has passed a bill which will allow the death certificates of transgender people to respect their legal gender.

The Respect After Death Act aims to give guidance to authorities, coroners and funeral directors, on how to identify transgender people on death certificates.

In the past, trans people have been recorded as the wrong gender on death certificates by coroners who based their decision a medical examination instead of the person’s legal gender identity.

The Advocate reports that the bill passed through the Assembly Health Committee last month, and passed the main Assembly with bipartisan support, by a vote of 61-3.

It will now head to the Senate, later this year.

The bill, introduced by speaker Toni Atkins, was inspired following the death of trans activist Christopher Lee.

Lee died in 2012 at the age of 48, and despite living as male for over two decades and being legally recognised as male on all documents, he was listed on his death certificate as “female”.

His close friends Chino and Maya Scott-Chung reached out to the Transgender Law Centre after the incident, hoping to change the requirements for gender on death certificates, which eventually lead to the bill.

The group’s legal director Ilona Turner told the California Report: “It’s incredibly painful to the family, friends, and broader community members of a transgender person who passed away when that person is wrongly gendered after their death.

“It sends a message, really a pretty strong signal to the rest of the community, that your wishes around your gender, your identity, your life as this person, who you are doesn’t matter and can be completely erased once you’re not here to stand up for yourself.”