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Tipsheet

Bills Would Allow Transgender People to Seal Legal Name-Change Requests

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Lawmakers in two states are considering bills that would allow people who identify as transgender to keep documentation requesting a legal name change sealed from the public record.

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Reportedly, a bill in Washington would allow “gender expression and identity” as grounds to seal a petition for a name change. A separate bill in California would require petitions for a name change for minors to be sealed, according to Fox News. Currently, in Washington, only victims of domestic violence can have name changes “easily” sealed, and California extends this to victims of stalking and sexual assault. 

Katie Moehlig, executive director of TransFamily Support Services, reportedly approached Democratic lawmakers in California with an idea for legislation for minors, which included protecting other kinds of documentation surrounding their gender.

"Somebody’s gender identity is an innate piece about them — it’s intimate," she claimed. "They deserve the right to the privacy around their identity."

Clarice Barrelet, a lawyer in San Diego who has an 11-year-old transgender child, said that she saw her child’s legal gender change right after typing their name into a search engine. She said she thinks those records should be sealed to protect children’s privacy.

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According to the Associated Press, transgender people in states where petitions for name changes are not sealed can be susceptible to online bullying and violence.  

However, some officials and law enforcement officers are concerned that criminals who request a name change “could escape accountability under the proposals.” The bill in Washington would allow courts to unseal a name change request file if they “had reasonable suspicions, and sex offenders and incarcerated people would still be ineligible for a sealed name change.”

Last year, the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) requested data on how many people had changed their gender on their driver’s licenses. Reportedly, the Texas Department of Public Safety recorded over 16,000 gender changes in the last two years. 

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