California, Washington move to let trans people seal name-change records

Lawmakers in California and Washington state are moving to let transgender people keep petitions for a name change out of the public record.

In Washington, a bill that seeks to revise the process for which individuals can request name changes was passed in the Senate earlier this month with bipartisan support. It’s expected to also pass the House.

Senate Bill 5028 states that in most cases of name change petitions related to gender identity or expression, “there shall be no public access to any court record of [a person’s] name change filing, proceeding or order.”

“It’s really hard sometimes for transgender people who have gone through a transition to be in a position where the world can easily find out their deadname [the name used before they transitioned] or their former identity,” Sen. Jamie Pedersen, who introduced the bill, told the Washington State Journal earlier this month.

Pedersen, a Democrat from Seattle, received a letter from Maia Xiao, a graduate student at the University of Washington, urging lawmakers to enact changes.

Xiao said a transgender friend who had legally changed her name faced relentless online harassment after her deadname was shared in an online forum since it was public record under current state law.

The bill, which would also extend privacy protection for emancipated minors and refugees, is based on current laws in Oregon and New York.

In California, a bill introduced by Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Chris Ward, a Democrat from San Diego, would require the sealing of petitions by minors to change their name and gender markers.

Assembly Bill 223, dubbed the Transgender Youth Privacy Act, seeks to give trans youth in the state “the confidence to navigate their gender identity without fear of retaliation from someone who discovers that information in the public record,” Ward said in a statement last month.

“Being ‘outed’ is a traumatic event for anyone — but especially traumatic for someone under the age of 18,” he said, adding that “by sealing the name and gender marker change records, we are bringing the courts in line with the laws around schools not outing students.”

The bill has yet to be scheduled for a hearing.

With News Wire Services