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Bill allowing name changes for convicted individuals passes House

Bill allowing name changes for convicted individuals passes House

By RAYMON TRONCOSO
Capitol News Illinois
[email protected]

SPRINGFIELD – A bill allowing a person who must register with a state agency due to a criminal conviction to change their name under specific circumstances passed the Illinois House on Thursday with bipartisan support.

House Bill 2542, introduced by state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, amends several state statutes preventing Illinois residents from changing their names due to their presence on watch lists. HB 2542 passed through the new House Restorative Justice Committee last month, with an amendment approved by the same committee Wednesday.

The bill crafts exceptions to the Arsonist Registration Act, the Sex Offender Registration Act, and the Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth Registration Act for persons who want to change their name due to marriage, religious beliefs, victim status or gender-related identity subject to the approval of a judge.

Individuals who have not completed the terms of their sentence would still be ineligible for a name change.

“Illinois is one of a very small handful of states with an absolute barrier to name change for anyone with a felony background,” Cassidy said on the House floor Thursday. “Very specifically, this has a particularly dangerous impact on people who have survived human trafficking people, survivors of domestic violence, folks who are transgender, and are seeking to get their documents lined up with their identity.”

The petition created by the legislation requires that persons seeking to change their name must swear, under threat of committing perjury, that the name change is due to one of the four aforementioned reasons.

The petition comes with a warning that a person required to register with a state agency as a result of a conviction under the amended acts who asks the court for a name change without satisfying one of the four valid reasons will be committing a felony.

Illinoisans who change their legal name under this statute would be required to notify the relevant law enforcement agency in charge of their registration of the change. Their former name, along with all aliases, would still exist in their criminal record accessible for all law enforcement agencies alongside their new one.

The name change would also be published publicly unless the petitioner could show that doing so would cause “a hardship, including but not limited to, a negative impact on the person’s health or safety.”

Republican Rep. Mark Batinick, of Plainfield, questioned Cassidy on the House floor on how the measure prevented someone from petitioning a name change to “avoid accountability,” and how it would determine the validity of a claimed hardship used to waive the public notice requirement.

According to Cassidy, the state’s attorney will be notified of all petitions for a name change under the bill and can file objections to it with the judge hearing the case. The legislation also puts the determination of valid hardships in the hands of the judge hearing the name change petition.

Batinick voted to approve HB 2542, which passed the House in a bipartisan 85-27 vote to advance to the Senate floor.

On Twitter, Cassidy touted the measure as a victory for transgender rights and noted its bipartisan supermajority support.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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