Bill overhauling Illinois’ legal name change process awaits Pritzker’s signature

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Illinois may soon streamline the legal name-change process, thanks to a new bill passed by the General Assembly.

Currently in Illinois, anyone with a felony conviction cannot change their name for a decade after they complete their sentence. Additionally, any Illinoisans convicted of identity theft or on a criminal registry for their felony conviction cannot change their legal name.

The ACLU of Illinois says this disproportionately affects human trafficking survivors, transgender people and poor people of color.

A new bill heading to Governor Pritzker’s desk would eliminate that waiting period for felons, allowing them to change their name once their sentence is complete.

Elizabeth Ricks, the legal director of the Trans Life Care program of Chicago House, an AIDS advocacy group, called Illinois’ current system more restrictive than many other states, and said the new law would be more equitable.

"It’s really about equity and safety for folks, particularly transgender and gender-expansive people, whose name change can literally mean physical safety," Ricks said. "Access to housing, employment, health care, really anything you use your legal name for, not having a name change can create a barrier for those folks."

The bill also reforms the name-change system. It creates a standardized statewide form for name changes, eliminates the need for a witness’s signature, and allows judges more ability to waive requirements that the name-change must be published in a newspaper for three weeks without a hearing.

“A name is an important thing,” Sen. Mike Simmons (D-Chicago), the senate sponsor of the bill, said. “It is how others identify you, so it is important that identity reflects the one you want the world to recognize you as."

People on registries can appear before a judge to get a name-change if they do it for valid marriage, gender identity, religion or status as a human trafficking survivor reasons. Any felon on a registry would be required to register with law enforcement both new and old names shortly after their name change process is complete.

"All that does is get that person in front of a judge and then the judge makes the decision about whether or not they can change their name," Ricks said.

State’s attorneys can still file objections for name changes to people on registries, people convicted of identity theft, and people with a pending criminal charge, as well as appear at the name-change hearing.

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via News | WCIA.com https://www.wcia.com

January 13, 2023 at 05:00PM

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