The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) is urging the Civil Court of the City of New York to respect the dignity of a transgender woman seeking a name change by deleting language from her name change order that singles out her gender.
On March 17, 2014, a judge granted the woman 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.” Kerr’s pro bono legal counsel, Shearman & Sterling LLP, has filed a motion to remove the problematic language. Such language does not appear in the name change orders of non-transgender people.
“There is no legitimate reason to single out 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 violates her privacy and exposes her to added scrutiny and the possibility of anti-transgender discrimination when anyone sees her order.”
The brief accompanying the motion points out that name change orders and gender change orders are legally different and should not be conflated. It further argues 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’m simply trying to bring my legal documents in line with my true identity,” said Kerr. “I appreciate the court recognizing my name change, but I respectfully ask that it treat me fairly and delete words that stigmatize me and jeopardize my privacy and safety whenever I present this document to various agencies to update my records.”
A hearing on Kerr’s motion is scheduled for Tuesday, April 29. Shearman & Sterling LLP represents Kerr through TLDEF’s Name Change Project, and is assisted by counsel from Viacom Inc.