The John Marshall Law School launches gender marker and name change project

The John Marshall Law School has launched a gender marker and name change project in its Pro Bono Program and Clinic.

The project, the first of its kind in Illinois, will help people navigate the maze of local, state and federal laws and rules required to change their names and gender marker on documents like driver’s licenses, state identification cards, U.S. passports and Social Security cards.

“The project is another way that our Pro Bono Program and Clinic will provide legal services to those in need of our legal assistance, while at the same time offering our students the opportunity to learn the issues affecting our communities and allow students to gain practical legal experience,” said Damian Ortiz, director of the Pro Bono Program and Clinic.

Students will work directly with Illinois residents needing assistance in changing their names and/or gender marker on government documents. The project is being launched in conjunction with Equality Illinois, which has advocated for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Illinoisans for 25 years.

“The law school is helping transgender Illinoisans navigate a sometimes confusing and intimidating legal process, while also educating law students how an action like a name or gender marker correction can help improve someone’s life,” said Brian C. Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois.

Lawyers from Seyfarth Shaw LLP are helping to train the law students.

Only 59 percent of transgender and gender non-conforming people have updated the gender marker on their licenses or state ID cards, and just 26 percent have updated their passport. A transgender or gender non-conforming person may face humiliation, discrimination and harassment if his or her core identification documents are not corrected to reflect their gender identity, but, the process to do so can be confusing, time consuming and intimidating.