May 6, 2014

Name Change Victory for Transgender Woman in New York City

Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund Praises New York City Court for Removing Stigmatizing Language from Name Change Order

New York, NY- The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund today commended the Civil Court of the City of New York for issuing a decision on April 30 deleting language from a woman’s name change order that unnecessarily singled her out as a transgender person.

On March 17 a judge granted Charlie Kerr the right to change her name from Charles Marshall Kerr to Charlie Marion Kerr. Although her name change was approved, the judge inserted language into the order stating: “This name change does not constitute proof of change in gender.” Ms. Kerr’s pro bono legal counsel, Shearman & Sterling LLP, filed a motion to remove the problematic language. Such language does not appear in the name change orders of non-transgender people, and its inclusion raised the possibility that Charlie would be subjected to unwanted scrutiny whenever she presented her name change order to someone.

“There was no legitimate reason to single out Ms. Kerr’s transgender status,” said TLDEF Staff Attorney Noah Lewis. “Name change orders are not gender change orders. Inserting language about a gender change into Charlie’s order because she is transgender violated her privacy and had the potential to expose her to added scrutiny and the possibility of anti-transgender discrimination. We are pleased that the court has removed that language.”

The brief accompanying the motion pointed out that name change orders and gender change orders are legally different and should not be conflated. It further argued that people use their name change orders to update their records to reflect their new identities, and that including language about gender changes exposes people to unnecessary scrutiny and the possibility of discrimination.

“I am simply trying to bring my legal documents in line with my true identity,” said Ms. Kerr. “I appreciate the court recognizing my name change and deleting words that stigmatized me and jeopardized my privacy and safety. Now I can move on with my life as the person that I am.”

Shearman & Sterling LLP represented Ms. Kerr through TLDEF’s Name Change Project, and was assisted by counsel from Viacom Inc. and TLDEF.