The Rhode Island Senate passes a bill to simplify the name change process

Legislation sponsored by Senator Tiara Mack and Representative Robert Craven would remove barriers and safety risks for transgender people and domestic violence survivors 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 domestic violence survivors – 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 name change statute during divorce to be gender inclusive, allowing name change legal fees to be waived for those who cannot afford to do so, removing the requirement for public notice or publication of a name change, and allowing name change records to be kept confidential if warranted by the individual’s security needs.

These reforms will remove barriers and safety risks for domestic violence survivors 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 are grateful for the Senate’s strong support for this bill, which expands the circle of protection, respect and equality to more Rhode Islanders,” says Polly Crozier, attorney at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. “A legal name change allows transgender people’s IDs to reflect their lived reality, allowing them to live more safely and freely and reducing barriers to important activities such as applying for jobs, making purchases or even obtaining a library card. This bill will make it more accessible for transgender Rhode Islanders to obtain a legal name change without undue financial burden or the need to come out to their local community through a public notice, which could lead to harassment or discrimination. Many thanks to Senator Mack for her leadership in the Senate and to Representative Craven for moving this important bill to the House of Representatives.”

“This law update will provide a more inclusive and simpler process for Rhode Islanders who want to change their name,” said Senator Mack. “The bill will also provide greater protections for individuals who wish to change their names due to security or other concerns. Nationwide attacks on the LGBTO+ community have left many communities with little hope that state legislatures will enact laws that protect rather than harm. As our society continues to evolve into a more inclusive and diverse whole, we must update our laws to reflect these changes and show solidarity with 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 undertaking,” said Rep. Crave. “This legislation will help alleviate fear for applicants while embracing an inclusive approach to supporting Rhode Island’s diverse population, including protections for those who may be harassed or persecuted because of their gender or sexual identity and victims of domestic violence.”