CHICAGO — The states of Illinois and Wisconsin have been sued for not allowing transgender people to change names if they have certain criminal convictions.
Illinois did modernize its name change process in 2017 with a law that allowed much easier updating of birth certificates. However, according to the Associated Press, people have to wait 10 years after they complete their sentence to change their names. The AP said Illinois has one of the nine most restrictive policies for name changes after a conviction.
The Illinois lawsuit was filed by the Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois and Greenberg Traurig, LLP. In a Facebook post, the TJLP said that transgender women, especially those of color, are often targeted by law enforcement.
“The impact on their lives is severe. This is an issue of equality and equal participation in society,” Lark Mulligan, an attorney who filed the Illinois lawsuit, told the AP. Mulligan, who is a transgender woman, noted “all the times that people are forced to use their IDs just to access basic services — applying for public benefits, applying for school, applying for a job or an apartment, anything like that.”
The lawsuit are requesting both states stop enforcing the restrictive laws.
In Wisconsin, registered sex offenders are forbidden to change their names and face up to six years in prison if they do, the news service reported. The plaintiff in the Wisconsin case is a registered sex offender because of a 1992 conviction and can’t change her name.
“This causes confusion and raises questions whenever Plaintiff applies for a job, interacts with medical professionals, or seeks to manage her personal finances,” the lawsuit states. If the suit is successful, she would continue to register under her given name, Kenneth Krebs, and her chosen name, Karen Krebs.
According to the AP, this is one of the first suits to be litigated over this issue. Cook County, Illinois, and Kenosha County, Wisconsin are listed as defendants since their state’s attorneys would be the ones who enforce the laws.