Eliminating Publication Requirement for Minor Name Changes

Bill Title: Action for Change of Name – Procedures and Requirements

Bill Number(s): HB1005

Bill Sponsor(s): Delegate Stephen Lafferty (D-42A, Baltimore County)

Position: Oppose unless amended/Support with amendments

Legislative history: Passed House of Delegates; received hearing in Senate Judicial Proceedings committee

Although we are pleased that the legislature has sought to improve the current processes for name changes and very much agree with the intent of HB0083, we have strong concerns about specific provisions in the bill.  HB0083 excludes certain groups of minors from the bill’s protections.  Minors petitioning for a name change who have sex offender status or prior convictions of a crime charged as an adult would still face the stigmatizing publication requirements.  Information about previous convictions is irrelevant to a name change, and a violation of a petitioner’s right to privacy, and unfounded in other similar exemptions in law (e.g. adoption and divorce).  A connection between criminality and transgender identity has no place in Maryland law.

Additionally, the bill requires either consent from all parents or guardians of a minor seeking a change of name or that the courts must conduct a lengthy, complex best interest of the child analysis in considering a publication requirement.  Current law requires that parents or guardians of a minor be served notices of a petition for name change but does not require affirmative consent.  HB0083’s requirements adds a significant burden for minors that does not exist under current law, especially for large number of transgender minors who  do not have strong family support, or have unsupportive families, and it actually weakens the existing protections in place for minors seeking name changes.

In addition to concerns about the content of the bill, we worry that, should the bill pass in its present form, it will be difficult if not impossible to fully amend in the future and could hamper future attempts at reform to identity documents law in Maryland for transgender and gender expansive Marylanders of all ages.

FreeState Justice cannot support HB0083 without amendments ameliorating the issues described above.  We call on the Senate to amend this legislation and ensure all minors are included in this bill’s protections.

We understand that not all of our community or its allies will agree with this position, especially those in our community who have transgender and gender expansive children who may immediately benefit from the legislation as proposed.  This is not a decision we take lightly.  We feel and understand the urgency and importance of changing these aspects of Maryland’s ID laws.  However, we believe that it is important to ensure that we are advocating for the most vulnerable members in our communities, so that our state laws serve all LGBTQ+ Marylanders regardless of gender identity, age, family circumstances, race, or income.  We are committed to continuing to work to accomplish changes to Maryland’s ID laws that will improve the process for all transgender and LGBQ+ Marylanders.

What would this bill do?

This bill would change the procedures for name changes. Some people choose to change their names to better reflect their gender identity. A legal name change order is almost always required to update the name listed on many forms of official IDs and records, such as driver’s licenses, passports, and Social Security cards.  This bill would eliminate the current requirement to publish the petition for a name change for a minor in a county newspaper.

Often, the publication requirement is a significant burden that causes undue stress for transgender individuals by forcing a private choice into the public sphere. The publication of a name change can exacerbate the negative outcomes experienced by transgender and non-binary individuals, including unnecessary scrutiny by law enforcement, denial of housing, employment, health or public benefits, and verbal harassment or physical violence. In addition, this requirement can create a financial barrier as the cost of publication can range from $30 to $300 depending on the county. Eliminating this requirement would make the name change process less burdensome.

FreeState Justice’s Testimony