PA legislators highlight name change legislative package intended to ease name change process for transgender Pennsylvanians

HARRISBURG, April 11 – Members of the Pennsylvania House and Senate joined advocates for the LGBTQ+ and Transgender Community Monday, April 11, 2022, for a press conference to discuss their package of bills to update Pennsylvania’s antiquated name change laws that will ease the burden for transgender Pennsylvanians who wish to change their given name to their chosen name.

The need for this legislative package became clear when Sen. Katie Muth (D-Berks/Chester/Montgomery) co-hosted a Senate Democratic Policy Committee with Senators Amanda Cappelletti (D-Delaware/Montgomery), Tim Kearney (D-Chester/Delaware) and Lindsey Williams (D-Allegheny). Testimony at the hearing from those who have struggled through this process made it clear that swift legislative reform the name change process and remove some of the legal barriers the LGBTQ+ community faces when living as their authentic selves.

"There are far too many barriers for the transgender community in Pennsylvania across the board – legally, socially and economically. As lawmakers, we can and must take bold steps to make life more equitable and inclusive in the Commonwealth. Now is the time to stand with and in support of transgender Pennsylvanians, which this legislative package will accomplish. In addition, changing our outdated and lengthy name change process will make Pennsylvania more efficient as a state,” said Senator Amanda Cappelletti (D-17). “Taking this step just makes sense."

“Someone’s gender identity is an extremely personal journey. Many people struggle with the decision to come out about their gender identity in light of a society that has been slow to recognize transgender people as deserving of equal rights and respect. Unfortunately, bureaucratic roadblocks such as changing information on one’s birth certificate make this process even more complicated as transgender people face discrimination and multiple barriers when changing their sex on government documents,” said Representative Ben Sanchez (D-153). “The need within Pennsylvania’s transgender community to address these systemic barriers has been unmet and growing, it’s about time we ensure that one of the most vulnerable communities in Pennsylvania has the support it needs to thrive.”

The Name Change Legislative Package includes the following bills:

  • Create new, administrative name change process, cosponsored by Cappelletti/Webster & Frankel.
  • New PA-issued birth certificates no longer include sex designation, cosponsored by Kearney/Sanchez & Webster.
  • Eliminate the publication requirement and make automatic sealing of records the default, cosponsored by Muth/Sanchez & Guenst.
  • Elimination of restrictions for name changes due to prior felonies, cosponsored by Muth/Nelson & Kinkead.
  • Transgender Name Change Assistance Grant Program, cosponsored by Kearney/Sanchez & Schusterman.
  • Require publicly available information on name change process, dedicated safe point of contact, and training on how to handle this process, sponsored by L. Williams.

“This legislation would remove an expensive and unnecessary hurdle for Pennsylvanians petitioning for a name change, said Representative Nancy Guenst (D-152). “Twenty-two other states have already voted the waiving of this requirement into law.”

“Far too many barriers are placed before transgender and non-binary individuals seeking to obtain gender-affirming documentation,” said Senator Tim Kearney (D-26). “I’m proud to sponsor Senate Bills 1145 and 1146, important policies that allow members of these communities access to the support and services they need to acquire these documents. These policies not only give these individuals a chance to live as their authentic selves, but they also reduce the likelihood that they will be ostracized, discriminated against, harassed, or assaulted for not having an ID with a name or gender that matches their gender presentation. These policies can also potentially save lives — as a legislator and human who values a person’s life, I support and stand behind that.”

The Equality Caucus, a bipartisan and bicameral caucus made up of members of the General Assembly whose mission is to advocate for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, asexual and people of all genders and sexualities in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is supporting the bill package. The chair of the caucus, Representative Brian Sims (D-182) said, “It’s time that we cut the red tape for trans and non-binary Pennsylvanians who deserve the right to live true to themselves in all facets of life,” Sims said. “This is a health and safety issue not only for LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians, but also for victims of abuse, the formerly incarcerated trying to rebuild a life and anyone without the means to navigate the arduous name change process.”

Watch the full press conference here.