Harrisburg, PA – March 31, 2023 – Recently, a group of Pennsylvania Senators have reintroduced a Legislative Package aimed at easing the burdens that Pennsylvanians face when legally changing their name. The Name Change Reform Package, introduced by Senators Amanda M. Cappelletti, Katie Muth, Tim Kearney, and Lindsey Williams, includes six bills that will reform the process to make it more streamlined, affordable, and accessible, while reducing the burden on both those seeking to change their names and our state institutions.
The delays, cost, and confusion involved in the current name change process cause real harm to Pennsylvania’s trans community. While an entirely new name change process is needed, this legislation sets forth reasonable, initial steps that can be taken now to improve the safety, stability, and wellbeing of our trans community in the Commonwealth.
“Pennsylvania must do more to ensure that our transgender community is guaranteed the right to safe and authentic gender expression here in the commonwealth,” Senator Muth (D-44) said. “This package of legislation will finally remove some of the barriers and discrimination our LGBTQ+ community members continue to face when seeking to legally change their name. I am proud to work with my colleagues on this important issue in the Senate.”
“As elected officials, it is our responsibility to ensure that every member of our community is able to live with dignity and respect,” said Senator Kearney (D-26). “Senate Bill 523 and Senate Bill 524 are two common-sense pieces of legislation that would remove barriers that transgender individuals face when obtaining gender-affirming documents. This is not only a matter of basic human rights, but also a crucial step toward building a more inclusive and just society. It is our duty to ensure that everyone has access to the tools they need to live their lives authentically and to advocate for policies that promote equality and fairness to all.”
The package includes:
- Administrative Name Change Reform: Senate Bill 530
- This legislation will reform the entire process from one that takes place in the courts to one that is administrative. This legislation will allow individuals to submit their application online or in-person at a PennDOT driver’s license/photo center.
- Navigating Pennsylvania’s Current Name Change Process: Senate Bill 526
- This legislation creates a “one stop shop” website with easily accessible information about the current legal process, requirements, and resources. The website will also provide a safe point-of contact for LGBTQIA+ individuals to ask questions about the name change process and provide training for judges, attorneys, and court personnel on providing culturally competent and affirming services to LGBTQIA+ individuals seeking a name change.
- Transgender Name Change Assistance Grants: Senate Bill 524
- This will provide funding to organizations that assist those navigating the name change process. Additional funding will be provided to county and municipal governments that provide these services to the transgender community.
- Removing Publication Requirements for Name Changes: Senate Bill 528
- Newspaper publication of name changes is antiquated and unnecessary. Additionally, everyone has a right to privacy. Many transgender individuals may avoid the name change process out of fear of their employers and/or personal contacts finding out. This legislation will ensure the sealing of court documents and eliminate the publication requirement.
- Ending Felony Prohibition for Name Changes:
- This legislation will eliminate the two-year waiting period and allow people with prior felonies that are currently barred from the process to be able to petition the court for a legal name change.
- Removal of Sex from Birth Certificate: Senate Bill 523
- The purpose of a birth certificate is to prove where and when a person was born. Removing sex assigned at birth aids in ending the discrimination and difficulty transgender individuals experience in seeking a name change.
“Trans people are the current victims of a larger nationwide effort to sow fear and discord. As allies and good neighbors, it is our job to counter these messages of hate by standing up for trans and non-binary individuals and helping them survive and thrive,” said Senator Lindsey Williams (D-38). “I consider it my responsibility as a legislator to not only defend trans lives, but to provide proactive solutions to help them navigate our government systems with the safety and dignity that they deserve.”
As we recognize International Transgender Day of Visibility, it is important to remember that there are simple changes our state government can make, like passing these reforms, to provide a better quality of life for trans Pennsylvanians and all Pennsylvanians.
“Pennsylvanians must be free to live as their authentic selves without government roadblocks holding them back,” said Senator Cappelletti (D-17). “This is about respecting those we represent and providing them with the means to be who they are and who they want to be, while also streamlining government services to provide a better experience for all.”