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New Jersey just made it easier for trans people to have whatever name they want

The state Supreme Court has reversed a previous policy requiring trans people in the state to publish their name change in a local newspaper.

By Casey Quinlan - December 17, 2020
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The New Jersey state Supreme Court on Tuesday decided to stop requiring transgender people to publish their name change in their local newspaper in order to make it official.

Transgender people in the state who wanted to change their name previously had to announce their current name and the name they would be taking in a legal ad twice before they were allowed to move forward.

In October, the Transgender Legal Defense Fund and Garden State Equality, with the law firm Lowenstein Sandler, sent comments to the New Jersey Supreme Court to advocate for the rule change.

The previous policy forced transgender people to share their deadname, the name they are changing, in a public way that was harmful to their mental health. A 2018 study found that transgender people who used their chosen name in every setting reported far fewer depression symptoms, thoughts of suicide, and suicide attempts.

The previous rule also required transgender people — who already face discrimination in employment and housing, and are more likely to be unemployed and experience poverty — to spend their own money to place ads.

In addition, forcing transgender people to publish their name changes outs them to their community, which puts them at risk of targeted violence. According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 41 transgender or gender nonconforming people have been killed in 2020 so far, a record number of incidents since the organization began tracking them in 2013.

“Removing the publication requirement for name changes not only makes the process more accessible and affordable to those who need it, but also removes the safety burden of publicizing private and personal information,” said Charlie Arrowood, stated counsel for the Transgender Legal Defense Fund’s Name Change Project, which provides pro bono legal name change services, on Tuesday.

“At a time when violence against our community continues to break records, granting legal name changes and protecting private medical information will save lives.”

LGBTQ organizations have been fighting for changes like these for years. Earlier this year, a law went into effect in Colorado that said transgender Colorado residents would no longer be required to publish name changes in a newspaper; took out a requirement for transgender people to have surgery before changing the gender listed on their birth certificate; and removed certain medical signature requirements for gender marker corrections on driver’s licenses, among other measures.

But other states, such as South Dakota, still enforce name change requirements, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.

According to The Bergen Record, New Jersey is the 18th U.S. jurisdiction to reverse name-change requirements for transgender people.

More states have also begun updating the range of gender marker options people can choose on their driver’s license, in order to accurately reflect people’s gender. States are recognizing the needs of nonbinary residents, by providing X as a gender marker option instead of simply M or F. New York state, for example, is preparing to make changes so that the Department of Motor Vehicles can provide the option in the next year or so.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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