Armed with a belief in the inherent dignity of all human beings, SLC fights to protect every person’s human and civil rights. Human rights are our most fundamental rights that are granted to all of us universally because we are human beings. By contrast, civil rights are granted to us by federal, state and local laws such as those guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution or federal civil rights statutes. The rights we have enforced over the years appear on this page and we highlight just a few examples of our successes in protecting the foundations of freedom and justice in our society.
Transgender Identification Initiative
Name Changes on Identification Documents
Southern Legal Counsel seeks to prevent discrimination against the transgender community due to legal identification documents that do not match the individual’s expressed name or gender marker on drivers’ licenses, social security cards, passports, etc. There is a direct correlation between possessing inaccurate identification documents and being denied employment, housing, and other life necessities, which contribute to high rates of poverty, unemployment, and homelessness within the transgender community. Southern Legal Counsel was approached by mental health providers in Alachua County to assist transgender clients with changing their names and gender markers on key identification documents.
We developed a model clinic in Gainesville, and have since expanded the clinic statewide, collaborating with local legal aid organizations throughout the state to protect trans communities. We provide materials and educate the transgender community and its allies on how to complete the petition for a legal name change, how to file for indigent status for a fee waiver or a payment plan, how to change the name and gender on all major identification documents, and provide pro bono assistance to each participant seeking help with the process.
We also collaborated with Florida Justice Technology Center to develop a first-of-its-kind free online tool to assist transgender individuals statewide in changing their names and updating their identification documents. Check out the online tool at www.floridanamechange.org. Nothing like this website exists in the country as the tool includes the forms and processes for all 67 counties in Florida, and utilizes a question and answer format to easily complete the complex paperwork. The purpose of the online tool is to expand the reach of our work beyond those who are able to attend in-person clinics. We also are working to encourage other states to adopt this model to meet the needs of the transgender community. You can read the ABA Journal’s article, “Website leads transgender Floridians through process of changing names and gender markers.”
Gender Marker Changes on Birth Certificates
In collaboration with the National Center for Transgender Equality and Equality Florida, Southern Legal Counsel engaged in policy negotiations with the Florida Department of Health, and obtained a policy change that proof of sexual reassignment surgery will no longer be required to update the gender marker on a Florida birth certificate. The Florida Department of Health will now accept a standard letter confirming appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition as evidence of a gender change, similar to the letters accepted by the Social Security and U.S. Passport administrations, as well as the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles.
This policy change will remove a significant barrier for many transgender people who were born in Florida. The archaic requirement of proof of sexual reassignment surgery created an insurmountable obstacle for many who do not require or desire surgical procedures or otherwise cannot access surgical procedures because of cost or medical reasons.
The Florida Department of Health has not issued a formal written statement regarding the change in policy for amending the gender on Florida birth certificates but has been consistently adhering to the newly agreed upon policy. Applicants who wish to update their gender on their Florida birth certificate should follow instructions provided on our Florida Name Change website, www.floridanamechange.org.