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COMMENTARY: Harvey Milk Day highlights LGBT issues

(This post originally appeared HERE in Assemblymember Toni Atkins newsletter.)

Harvey Milk Day is celebrated each year on May 22, the birthday of the slain gay civil rights leader. The day was established in 2009 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and is recognized in California as a day of special significance for public schools.

Harvey Milk Day is an opportunity to learn about efforts to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality. As the first openly gay elected official in California, Milk is a symbol of that struggle. He served almost a year on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors before he was assassinated, along with Mayor George Moscone, on November 27, 1978. He left behind a legacy of groundbreaking inspiration for which he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. In 2012, San Diego was the first city in the United States to name a street after Harvey Milk.

Since Milk's time, much progress has been made toward full LGBT equality, but there is still work to be done. That is the reason I am carrying AB 1121, which provides transgender people seeking legal name changes with a streamlined and inexpensive process that protects their privacy.

Transgender people's understanding of themselves as male or female is different from the sex they were assigned at birth, often from an early age. The transition to living consistent with one's gender identity often involves medical procedures as well as a legal process to change official documents and one's name.

Current law requires a transgender person to obtain a court order and to publish the name change application in the newspaper. This process can be expensive and also publicly exposes the person to potential discrimination, harassment or even violence because of being transgender. AB 1121 allows the transgender person to apply directly to the state Office of Vital Records for a name change.

More information about this bill is available HERE or from the bill's sponsors, Equality California HERE, or the Transgender Law Center HERE.