Pro Bono

Two Decisions and Law Firm Volunteers Help with Transgender Name Changes


Transgender name changes are becoming more commonplace in New York courts, with help from around 200 law firm volunteers and two recent court decisions.

The volunteers, from 19 law firms, have represented nearly 400 transgender clients, the New York Times reports. The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund keeps track of the pro bono numbers; it’s unclear how many transgender people obtained name changes on their own or with the aid of paid lawyers. The fund’s executive director, Michael Silverman, told the Times, “In a way, it’s a big coming-out process—with a judge.”

The Times also notes two court decisions that are helping name change requests become more routine. In one case, a New York appeals court overruled a judge who had refused to approve name changes for transgender individuals unless they had a doctor’s note explaining the reason. The appellate court said the law generally permits name changes absent fraudulent intent. In another case, a judge suspended the requirement that name changes and home addresses be advertised in newspapers. The Westchester judge cited safety issues.

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