On Oct. 15, a day after Gov. Jerry Brown visited Santa Rosa to tour fire-ravaged neighborhoods, he signed a law that creates a new nonbinary gender identification for birth certificates and driver’s licenses in California, with provisions effective in 2018 or 2019. The bill is called the Gender Recognition Act.

How Senate Bill 179 will affect employers, including bathroom, discrimination and other issues, is not yet clear. Courts in Sonoma, Marin, Napa, Solano, Mendocino and Lake counties, as well as the rest of the state, will be required to recognize the new nonbinary gender next year.

“Nonbinary is an umbrella term for people with gender identities that fall somewhere outside of the traditional conceptions of strictly either female or male,” the bill states. “People with nonbinary gender identities may or may not identify as transgender, may or may not have been born with intersex traits, may or may not use gender-neutral pronouns, and may or may not use more specific terms to describe their genders, such as agender, genderqueer, gender fluid, Two Spirit, bigender, pangender, gender nonconforming, or gender variant.”

The bill was authored by Toni Atkins, a California state senator who represents San Diego and nearby communities. Atkins, elected in 2016, worked as director of Womancare Health Center and served as a member of San Diego’s city council.

“Gender identification is fundamentally personal,” the bill reads, “and the state should endeavor to provide options on state-issued identification documents that recognize a person’s accurate gender identification. It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this legislation to provide three equally recognized gender options on state-issued identification documents — female, male, and nonbinary.”

Under existing law, a person who undergoes clinical treatment to change his or her gender can obtain a new birth certificate. This bill will allow a person to obtain a new birth certificate even without treatment and change his or her gender to a new category — nonbinary.

As of Sept. 1, 2018, the Gender Recognition Act will allow a person who has not had clinical treatment for gender change to change his or her name and gender to nonbinary through a court order. Driver’s licenses will be available in nonbinary gender as of Jan. 1, 2019.

“‘Intersex’ is an umbrella term used to describe natural bodily variations,” according to SB 179, “which can include external genitalia, internal sex organs, chromosomes, or hormonal differences that transcend typical ideas of male and female. Upper estimates of the number of intersex people are approximately 1.7 percent of the general population.”

A person who seeks to change to nonbinary gender must swear under penalty of perjury that the change is not for fraudulent purposes. It would be a crime to use the nonbinary gender specification for fraud.

The bill will create a separate procedure for a minor under age 18 to petition a court for gender change to female, male or nonbinary.

James Dunn covers technology, biotech, law, the food industry, and banking and finance. Reach him at james.dunn@busjrnl.com or 707-521-4257