A recently introduced bill would allow transgender Maryland residents to legally change their names more easily. The bill would also benefit domestic violence survivors.
The change would nix a requirement that anyone seeking to change their name must publish a notice in a newspaper in the county where they reside.
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The requirement can be waived by a judge but the decision is left up to their discretion – and isn’t uniformly enforced. There is no guidance on when to accept or deny a request to avoid publishing a trans person’s deadname.
While the law was put in place decades ago in an attempt to make it harder for con artists to assume new identities when they moved, the internet has created problems for the petitioners. The link between a trans person and their former gender will live forever online.
The Maryland House of Delegates’ Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the bill last week.
“Each time I must tell an 18-year-old at one of the most empowering and exciting times of their life that their former name will be on the internet for the rest of their life it is among one of the hardest conversations that I have in my work,” Trans Maryland Executive Director Lee Blinder told delegates. “That joy and excitement at being seen is dashed and worry, fear, and embarrassment take over.”
“The rule requires publication in an outlet in the county of residence of the petitioner,” Melanie Shapiro, the public policy director for the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, added. “So if a survivor of domestic violence is seeking to establish themselves with some sort of anonymity and separate themselves from their abuser, they must then publish their name and the name that they seek to change to in their county of residence, in a publication of general circulation, and that information is very easily found on the internet now.”
Similar legislation unanimously passed the House of Delegates last year, but languished in the state senate after the body closed early in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The bill did not get a vote in the senate.
According to the U.S. Trans Survey’s Maryland report, 69% of transgender Marylanders do not have an accurate ID card.