A national program that provides free name-change services to low-income trans people is expanding its services in Philadelphia.
The program, known as The Name Change Project, is run by the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, based in New York City.
Michael D. Silverman, founder of TLDEF, said he’s “thrilled” with the expansion in Philadelphia.
“Trans people everywhere struggle to get basic legal help,” Silverman said. “We are thrilled to be able to expand our legal services in the Philadelphia trans community.”
He said the local program has helped 17 trans city residents get legal name changes, due in large part to the pro-bono work of the Reed Smith law firm.
“We’ve already helped 17 people in Philly with our program-launch partner, Reed Smith — which also works with us in Pittsburgh and New York,” Silverman said. “We couldn’t have done this without them.”
Since 2007, the project has helped about 2,000 trans folks in a dozen cities legally change their names, Silverman noted.
“In New York City, we’ve been able to keep up with the demand for this service — but just barely,” he continued. “In other cities, the demand far exceeds our ability to provide this service.”
Along with effectuating name changes, the project also seeks to simplify the process — which in some states requires fingerprinting, background checks and legal notices in newspapers.
“We’re always in favor of simplifying the process for transgender people to get legal names that match who they truly are,” Silverman explained.
He said placing notices in newspapers can be very expensive, as well as intrusive. “Sometimes our law firms are able to help with that [financially],” he added.
Training for PNC Bank attorneys who want to participate in the program will be held 10:30 a.m.-noon Feb. 9 at PNC Bank in Center City.
Later that day, from 2-3:30 p.m., a similar training will be held at the Center City law firm of Saul Ewing.
Neither session is open to the general public.
Attorney Anthony P. Forte is helping to organize Saul Ewing’s training session.
“The Name Change Project is a wonderful program that offers low-income trans clients the support and assistance they need to achieve an important and profound milestone in their new identity,” Forte said. “We at Saul Ewing are thrilled to be partnering with TLDEF and Reed Smith to expand this important program in Philadelphia — and to offer this vital assistance to trans people here. This is the type of pro-bono legal work that we can all feel really great about.”
Luke E. Debevec, an attorney at Reed Smith, spearheaded the firm’s work on the name-change project in Philadelphia. Debevec will help provide training at both sessions.
“Reed Smith has a long history of working hand in hand with TLDEF and the Name Change Project,” Debevec said. “I have found that helping transgender people maneuver through the court system to match their names with who they are is truly satisfying and rewarding work. We’re excited to help TLDEF expand this program and assist a greater number of their clients.”