Transgender New Jerseyans seeking legal name changes can now get counsel pro bono from Hunnell Law Group in Asbury Park and McCarter & English in Newark, through a newly minted partnership with Garden State Equality.
The partnership, announced Oct. 22, comes less than a year after the New Jersey Supreme Court ended the requirement for name changes to be published in a newspaper, eliminating a hurdle for trans New Jerseyans to change their legal names. Garden State Equality, the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund and Lowenstein Sandler submitted comments to the Court supporting the rule change.
“Access to accurate identity documents is critical for trans people to fully participate in society,” said Christian Fuscarino, executive director of Garden State Equality in a prepared statement. “We’re so grateful to our partners at Hunnell and McCarter & English for their support of New Jersey’s trans community. Removing the financial barrier to updating identity documents ensures that all in our community can benefit from some equality we’ve fought for. ”
The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, which surveyed more than 27,000 people in the United States, found that almost one-third of trans folks who showed an identity document with a name or gender marker that conflicted with their perceived gender were harassed, denied benefits or services, discriminated against or assaulted.
The cost of changing ID documents was one of the main barriers respondents faced, with 35% of those who have not changed their legal name and 32% of those who have not updated the gender on their IDs reporting that it was because they could not afford it, according to the USTS.
“We’re very proud to partner with Garden State Equality to ensure that New Jersey’s trans community has access to obtain accurate identity documents no matter their financial circumstances,” said Stephanie Hunnell of the Hunnell Law Group. “Cost should not be a barrier to obtaining legal recognition of one’s gender identity.”
“We have been honored to serve as pro bono counsel to countless transgender people seeking name changes; to national organizations opposing deeply hateful anti-trans federal regulatory changes; and to LGBTQA+ people seeking asylum and other forms of status in this country,” said Natalie Watson, partner at McCarter & English. “We are delighted to expand the work we have done with Garden State Equality into a broader partnership to help ensure trans individuals have meaningful access to the name and gender marker change process.”
Trans people in New Jersey seeking assistance with legal name changes can fill out a form online to secure name change assistance. In the announcement, Garden State Equality encouraged other law firms to reach out if they are interested in providing pro-bono assistance to trans residents of New Jersey.