In November 2020, the New Jersey Supreme Court changed the Court rules on name changes so that what is known as the “publication requirement” was abolished. In a Notice from the Honorable Glenn A. Grant, J.A.D., Acting Administrative Director of the Courts, the requirement was abolished for several reasons, the most pressing of which was the safety and privacy of the transgender, non-binary, and gender non-confirming communities. In a recent Omnibus order from the New Jersey Supreme Court dated July 30, 2021, the rule change was expanded, making it so that ALL name changes are no longer a part of the public record for both adults and juveniles alike (under Rule 1:38-3(d)(20) and Rule 1:38-3(f)(10) respectively). This change will be effective September 1, 2021.
This change is extremely significant to the transgender, gender non-confirming, and non-binary communities. Before, the process to keep the name changes confidential required substantial legal work and was therefore costly for the individual. This meant that in order to maintain their privacy, an individual who wanted confidentiality had the burden of an extra step and expense that no one else had to endure. Specifically, those in the transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary communities were required to have a motion filed to protect if they wanted to protect their identity, or risk “outing” themselves to their community.
Not only has individuals’ privacy been at stake, but so too has been their safety. In its 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, the National Center for Transgender Equality reports the percentage of children in K-12 who express a transgender identity or who are gender non-conforming that are victims of harassment, intimidation, and bullying is at a staggering 77%! Furthermore, the NCTE’s report shows that “nearly one-third (32%) of individuals who have shown IDs with a name or gender that did not match their presentation reported negative experiences, such as being harassed, denied services, and/or attacked.” It is many peoples’ hope that since this recent change to the rules will protect the privacy of transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary people, it will help to keep these individuals safe as a result.
These are all steps in the right direction. The New Jersey Supreme Court is making great strides to make the courts accessible and equal to all that need to use them. These changes will level the playing field so that everyone who seeks a name change is treated equally regardless of gender identity.