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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: March 6, 2023 09:56 AM
From: Senator Katie J. Muth and Sen. Amanda M. Cappelletti, Sen. Timothy P. Kearney, Sen. Lindsey M. Williams
To: All Senate members
Subject: Removing Publication Requirements for Name Changes
Last session, we introduced a package of legislation aimed at addressing the ongoing challenges and legal barriers transgender individuals and members of the LGBTQ community face when going through the name change process in the Commonwealth. Since introducing these bills, we have continued to hear from members of the community about the need to advance these pieces of legislation, especially at a time when members feel more under attack than ever. In that effort, we are re-introducing this package of bills so that individuals can more easily live as their authentic selves.
This legislation would make the legal name change process more affordable and create privacy protections by removing the Title 54 requirements for publication and mandating the sealing of court records from the outset of the proceedings.  
Publication requirements are onerous and invasive. To obtain a legal name change in Pennsylvania, an applicant must submit a petition to the court and publish notice of the hearing in two newspapers, additionally, their court dockets are made publicly accessible online.
Moreover, throughout the Commonwealth, the name change process can cost from approximately $400 to $900; of this, roughly $150 to $350 is required for publicizing the name change. For individuals who require legal assistance, the costs can be much higher.   
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 
During the Senate Democratic Policy Committee hearing on this issue, Dre Ceja of the LGBT Center of Central PA articulated the safety predicament clearly when they said, “Either folks experience mistreatment, discrimination, violence, or harassment for having incongruent documents, or they are put at risk after being required to publish or announce their name change in public spaces as part of the legal name change process.”  
Removing the publication requirement and sealing court records are essential steps toward protecting transgender, non-binary, and gender-expansive Pennsylvanians and allowing them to live as their authentic selves. 
Please join us in co-sponsoring this commonsense piece of legislation.

Introduced as SB528