In December 2020, the Supreme Court of New Jersey amended its court rules to eliminate the requirement that people who obtain court-ordered name changes publish their former and new names in a newspaper. The firm, along with the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) and Garden State Equality, submitted comments supporting the then-proposed amendments to the court’s rules.
Before this rule change, individuals seeking legal name changes were required to publish in a newspaper a notice of their application, the hearing date, and the court order granting the name change. The comments the firm submitted explained that this former process threatened the safety and privacy of transgender people. Moreover, the publication requirement was outdated and a significant financial barrier to low-income individuals. Rather than informing relevant parties of the petitioner’s name change, publication in the newspaper–particularly for transgender petitioners–served only to divulge private medical information (the fact of someone’s transgender status) and give bad actors a road map to interfere with a transgender petitioner’s name change and safety.
Transgender people seek legal name changes to align their identity documents with their identities and the names they actually use. Yet, according to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, of nearly 28,000 transgender people, only 11 percent had all of their IDs and records accurately listing both their current name and gender. That figure was only 6 percent for people with no income, and more than two-thirds (68 percent) reported that none of their IDs or records had both their current name and gender. The change in New Jersey’s court rule will help protect the transgender community and ease barriers to obtaining a legal name change.