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New Yorkers Can Rename Themselves Under New Law

by Emell Adolphus

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday December 20, 2021

New Yorkers have always marched to beat of their own drums. Now they will be free to rename themselves however they want when the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) takes effect on Tuesday, explains Manhattan Civil Court judge Hillary Gingold in an op-ed for the NY Daily News.

The law is being called a major step forward for non-binary and transgender residents because it will remove longstanding barriers to protect the privacy of those who wish to self-identity and practice self-expression.

"Existing law will be superseded when the GRA goes into full effect Dec. 21 — 180 days after the governor's signature enshrined the measure into law," explains Gingold. "The statute, as currently in effect, directs judges to require publication of all name changes in a legal notice. That notice too often can be used to harass or otherwise have a negative impact on the person requesting the change."

The GRA grants changes to state records laws so that people can have the gender identity of their choosing on documents such as drivers' licenses and birth certificates.

Courts will no longer be required to serve notice of name change to other government agencies, including to immigration authorities, protecting the rights of legal and undocumented immigrants.

This will also protect survivors of domestic violence from their abusers if they choose to create a new identity, Gingold explains.

"It is clear the law is designed to protect the rights of individuals, whether transgender or binary, to live their lives as they see fit," writes Gingold. "That is why it is important that provisions of the new law enable judges to use their discretion to seal the record of the name change, based on the totality of the circumstances. Judges are no longer authorized to require publication of a notice of name change in a newspaper or other periodical."

Another reason to love New York.