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Pennsylvania Trans Man Wins Court Case Over Name Change

Pennsylvania Trans Man Wins Court Case Over Name Change

Judge and citizen

The law bans legal name changes for people convicted of certain felonies and delays them for others.

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A Pennsylvania court has granted a legal name change to a transgender man in a case challenging the state’s restrictions on name changes for people with felony convictions.

A Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas judge for Butler County approved the name change for Jordan Hilliard Thursday, according to a press release from the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, which represented him along with the law firm of Reed Smith.

State law prevents people with certain felony convictions from ever changing their name, and it prevents those with other felony convictions from obtaining a name change until at least two years have passed since the completion of their sentence.

Hilliard filed a petition for his name change in 2013 and again in February 2022. In May 2022, the Butler County Court of Common Pleas denied that petition. In November, TLDEF and Reed Smith appealed the decision in Pennsylvania Superior Court, and the case was sent back to to the Court of Common Pleas. The court heard the case Tuesday, then issued its decision granting the name change two days later.

Other Pennsylvania courts have made similar rulings. The Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas granted a name change to a trans petitioner in December 2021, and the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas did the same a week later, also declaring the restrictions unconstitutional.

“It’s too hard to go through life being called a name that doesn’t match who I am. I shouldn’t have to, and I’m so happy that the judge agreed,” Hilliard said in the release. “I’ve been trying to get my name changed for 10 years now. Having the wrong name on my ID has made everything harder, from filling prescriptions to keeping a job. It means so much that the judge heard me, and now I can finally move forward. Having my name changed has never been about getting around the system but having respect and being safe within the system.”

“We are grateful to the court for diligently and thoughtfully reviewing the evidence and granting Jordan’s name change. Coming after similar victories in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, this outcome underscores that the felony bar is unjust and inconsistent with the constitution,” added TLDEF Litigation Director Gabriel Arkles.

“In a moment when anti-transgender hate seems to be at an all-time high, removing unnecessary legal barriers to existence, such as the felony bar in Pennsylvania is an important step towards preserving the safety and dignity of transgender people,” said TLDEF Senior Counsel Sydney Duncan. “Whether you are getting stopped by police, going to the doctor’s office, or opening a bank account, having identity documents that accurately reflect who you are only makes our communities safer.”

“First and foremost, we are very happy for Jordan,” said Patrick Yingling, Reed Smith attorney. “We are also gratified to have yet another ruling that grants a name change over the felony bar, a law that violates the Pennsylvania constitution and should not stand in the way of anyone who seeks a name change.”

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.