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Niagara County removes name change barrier!

 
Lars and his new spouse.
 

Lars wanted to get his name changed before his wedding to ensure that his name would be correct on his marriage license. We met him in November at our clinic at the Trans Wellness Conference in Buffalo where we drafted the papers for him to apply for a name change and a waiver of the $210 filing fee.

Lars filed the papers on his own, but contacted us a month later saying that the Niagara County Attorney’s Office had opposed his fee waiver request -- not for a lack of indigency, but because the County Attorney denies all fee waiver requests in name change cases.

After we intervened, the County Attorney withdrew its opposition, waived the fee, and granted Lars’s name change!

But that did not mean that the same thing would not happen to the next person. Niagara County had been denying fee waivers for many years and denied them for two other clinic participants. So we wrote a legal memorandum to the County Attorney detailing the importance of name changes for trans people. We explained that trans people disproportionately live in poverty, and we laid out the statutory and constitutional problems with denying fee waivers across the board.

We are happy to report that we received a letter stating that the Niagara County Attorney’s Office reversed its policy! They wrote: “Our office has reviewed your recent Memorandum and Attorney Affirmation and finds the legal arguments contained therein to be persuasive. Our office will no longer categorically oppose poor person status for name change applications.”

Meanwhile, other counties in New York State continue to categorically deny waiver of the $210 filing fee in name change cases. We have provided a memo to the New York Courts Access to Justice Program detailing this issue, and we will continue to work on it until all trans people in New York can get a name change regardless of their income.

 

Your generosity on Give OUT Day!

 

Thank you to everyone who donated on Give OUT Day! Thanks to your generosity we raised $2,420! Donations enable us to both to help clients such as Lars, who could not otherwise afford our services, and to engage in unpaid policy advocacy that benefits the community as a whole.

 

Join us for a name change training & reception!

 

In conjunction with the Mount Sinai Medical-Legal Partnership, we are providing a name and gender change training from 4:30 - 5:45 pm on Wednesday, June 7, 2017. The law firm of Schulte Roth & Zabel is hosting the training as part of their pride month celebration. A reception will follow. Please email us to RSVP.

 
Noah, Ida and Charlie at Mount Sinai Medical-Legal Partnership kick-off event
 

Mount Sinai is one of the largest health care providers in the United States and operates a Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery, which has served nearly 800 patients in its first year. Those patients are also in need of legal services, such as insurance appeals and name and gender changes. We are thrilled to be partnering with the Mount Sinai Medical-Legal Partnership to help provide these services.

 

Three trans people walk into a courtroom...

 

...and instructed 40 attendees -- including two judges -- on the importance of name changes and how to file them. Charlie, Lacey and Noah conducted the training at the Suffolk County courthouse.

 
Charlie, Lacey and Noah at Suffolk name change training
 

Many thanks to Harry Tillis and Cindy Doerler of the Suffolk Academy of Law, which coordinated the event. Thanks also to Barbara Roman of the Lambda Law Student Association at Touro Law School, which sponsored the event. It was co-sponsored by the Suffolk County Bar Association's new LGBT Law Committee.

 

Making Legal Aid welcoming to trans people

 

Being trans shouldn’t be a barrier to accessing legal services. But the specific legal needs of trans people or how to respectfully interact with trans clients isn't taught in law school.

That’s why, earlier this month, Noah co-presented a workshop for legal aid attorneys at the Equal Justice Conference in his native Pittsburgh. The workshop focused on helping legal aid organizations better serve transgender individuals. The presentation was well received, and one organization invited Noah to conduct training at their offices.

 
Noah, Lisa and Ming at Equal Justice Conference.
 

Noah presented with Lisa Cisneros, director of the LGBT Program at California Rural Legal Assistance, and Ming Wong of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. The conference, co-sponsored by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service and National Legal Aid & Defender Association, is attended by the legal aid community to improve delivery of services to low-income individuals.

 

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