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House of Representatives
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: January 18, 2022 09:21 AM
From: Representative Benjamin V. Sanchez and Rep. Nancy Guenst
To: All House members
Subject: Reform Name Change Publication

To be granted a legal name change in Pennsylvania, one of the many steps an applicant must take is to submit a petition to the Court of Common Pleas. The applicant must then publish a notification of their intended name change in at least two newspapers circulated in their county with the knowledge that their court records are publicly accessible online. Furthermore, the name change process is costly, with as much as $350 spent on newspaper publication alone not to mention the cost of the court process itself. These requirements are antiquated and create a barrier for many, especially for transgender, non-binary, and gender expansive people in our communities.

The right to privacy is also essential and having to advertise a name change publicly in two newspapers exposes transgender individuals to harassment, intimidation, discrimination, and violence. In fact, respondents in the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey from Pennsylvania resulted in the following:
· 69% reported that none of their IDs had the name and gender marker they preferred, while only 9% had their preferred name and gender marker on all ID documents and records
· 35% of those who have not changed their legal name reported that they had not done so because they could not afford it
· 30% who have shown an ID with a name or gender marker that did not match their gender presentation were verbally harassed, denied benefits or service, asked to leave, or assaulted
Moreover, it affects people beyond the transgender community. It is also an onerous process for those who are battered and seeking to start their lives over free from their abuser. The current process could put these victims and their children in grave danger by exposing key information about themselves to the public. There is no reason in today’s world why publication in print is still necessary.

It is time that we address this costly and emotional barrier faced by residents changing their legal name to reflect their authentic selves or seek security from others. For this reason, we plan on introducing legislation to address publication requirements and seal court records for name change proceedings. This is an important step forward to ensure that all members of our community face less obstacles when changing their legal name. It is also a necessary adjustment to our laws to better protect transgender, non-binary, and gender expansive Pennsylvanians.

This commonsense legislation is vital to safeguarding equality and reforming an antiquated legal process. Please send a clear message to your constituents that you support them by joining us in co-sponsoring this legislation.

Introduced as HB2422