A group of transgender plaintiffs sued the state of Illinois for the right to change their legal name despite past felony convictions.
Illinois state statute restricts access to legally changing one's name if convicted of felonies, according to TV station WBBM in Chicago. If convicted of some crimes, like identity theft, you can never get a name change in the state.
For example, Reyna Ortiz was convicted in 2002 of identity theft. So while she lives life with the name Reyna, a different name appears on her driver's license and other government documents. "You just kind of walk around feeling incomplete as a person," she said.
Now Ortiz and seven other transgender people want the courts to recognize a compelling reason to let trans individuals change their names and not live with a lifetime ban on something other people in Illinois can obtain in about eight weeks.
Attorney Avi Rudnick said forcing people to live with a different name on government IDs exposes them to professional and personal risks.
"Allowing people to have a name change not only decreases their exposure to that violence," he said, "but gives them an opportunity to actually get a job and get employed, and to not end up in this cycle of poverty and criminalization."
Immigrant Tania Cordova was able to get a name change, but it took her 10 years thanks to a felony drug conviction. She said putting such barriers up to transgender people actually prevents them from becoming good citizens after their criminal sentence is otherwise completed.
"They are working so hard to be a productive member of society," she said.