California bill seeks to include diacritic marks in official records
Assembly Bill 77, a new bill currently being heard in a California House committee aims to change the way vital records, like birth and death certificates, are recorded in the state. This new project would allow for diacritical marks, like ñ and á in official state records. California has a large and diverse population, which includes many people whose names require these symbols to be written properly, including Germans, Asians, Jewish, Latino, and others. This bill would benefit them all and mark a step forward for inclusion and diversity nationwide.
According to Axios Latino, Latinos have been pushing efforts to normalize the inclusion of the marks in their names for several years, and this bill would accomplish a big landmark, allowing them to be included in official records. However, the bill is not only supported by members of the Latino community. In fact, The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center is in support of the bill.
This is part of an effort that began five years ago when a couple: Pablo Espinoza and his wife, Nancy Chaires Espinoza, were unable to include accent marks in the birth certificate of their son Nicolás Agustín Espinoza Chaires. The reason for this was that county agencies had stopped using the marks in 1986, which was the same year that English was made the official language of the state. Jaime Jarrín, a longtime Spanish broadcaster for the Los Angeles Dodgers, has testified in support of the bill. He says that “our name is our greatest treasure that we have. If you say my name (correctly) you are respecting my culture.”
However, the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials opposes the bill, citing concerns about its cost and feasibility. According to an Axios article, a member of the association, Donna M. Johnston says that the bill is vague and should make clear that the state has to adopt the new rules before they’re adopted at a county level. The organization also has concerns about whether county computer systems would support diacritical marks.
Passing the bill would impact California’s large Latino population, as well as many other people with non-English names. Alaska, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, and Utah currently allow for diacritical marks in state records, according to the summary of the California bill.
A person’s name is a vital part of their identity and culture. Using diacritical marks in official records would show respect for the diverse population of California and make official documents more accurate and inclusive and would be a step forward towards the recognition of diverse populations around the country.