Legislation sponsored by Senator Tiara Mack and Representative Robert Craven would remove barriers and safety risks for transgender people and survivors of domestic violence seeking a legal name change

Today the Rhode Island Senate passed “An Act Relating to Probate Practice and Procedure—Practice in Probate Courts” (S. 2667) – a bill championed by advocates for LGBTQ+ people and survivors of domestic violence – by a vote of 36 to 1.

Sponsored by Sens. Tiara Mack, Melissa Murray, Samuel Bell, S. 2667 simplifies the process for Rhode Islanders seeking to legally change their name by updating the statute on name change during divorce to be gender inclusive, allowing name change court costs to be waived for those who can’t afford them, removing the requirement for public notice or publication of a name change, and allowing name change records to be kept confidential if doing so is warranted by the person’s safety needs.

These reforms will alleviate barriers and safety risks for survivors of domestic violence and transgender people, two groups of Rhode Islanders who often seek legal name changes.

A companion House bill, H 8155, is sponsored by Representatives Robert Craven, Carol McEntee, and Justin Caldwell.

“We’re grateful for the Senate’s strong support for this bill which expands the circle of protection, respect, and equity to include more Rhode Islanders,” said Polly Crozier, Attorney at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. “A legal name change makes it possible for transgender people’s identity documents to reflect their lived reality, enabling them to live more safely and freely and reducing barriers in important activities like applying for a job, making purchases, or even getting a library card. This bill will make it more accessible for transgender Rhode Islanders to obtain a legal name change without undue financial burdens or needing to out themselves to their local community via a public notice, which could invite harassment or discrimination. Many thanks to Senator Mack for her leadership in the Senate and to Representative Craven for moving this important bill in the House.”

“This update in law will provide a more inclusive and easier process for Rhode Island’s residents who wish to change their name,” said Senator Mack. “The bill will also offer better protection for individuals who seek to change their name due to safety or other concerns. Nationwide attacks on the LGBTO+ community have left many communities with little hope for state legislatures to produce bills that protect rather than harm. As our society continues to evolve to a more inclusive and diverse whole, we must update our laws to reflect these changes and show solidarity for our LGBTQ+ neighbors, which this piece of legislation does.”

“If an individual wishes to change their name, it should be an easy and simple process and not an overly complicated endeavor,” said Representative Craven. “This legislation will help relieve anxiety for applicants while also embracing an inclusive approach to support Rhode Island’s diverse population, including protections for those who may be harassed or persecuted for their gender or sexual identities and victims of domestic violence.”