law clinic

Equality Illinois, The John Marshall Law School and Seyfarth Shaw
Team Up for Gender Marker and Name Change Law Project

CHICAGO (June 30, 2016)–Of the many personal, medical and legal challenges faced by transgender Illinoisans, Equality Illinois, The John Marshall Law School and the Seyfarth Shaw law firm are teaming up to try to make the legal issues a little easier to manage.

Equality Illinois and John Marshall are launching a Gender Marker and Name Change Legal Project to help people work through the maze of county, state and federal government offices, their forms and the fees they must navigate to live their true gender identity. The program will be assisted by Seyfarth Shaw.

“We are excited to initiate this great partnership with The John Marshall Law School and its students in the school’s Pro Bono Program and Clinic and with Seyfarth Shaw,” said Brian C. Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of Equality Illinois, which is now celebrating its 25th year advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Illinoisans.

“By establishing the gender marker and name change project, 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,” Johnson said. “In the wake of the violence against LGBT people in Orlando, this is another way that we can stand up for the dignity of all Illinoisans and ensure that our state remains a welcoming and affirming place.”

Among the legal changes that might be needed by a transgender or gender non-conforming person are a court-sanctioned name change, as well as making a name and gender marker correction on a state driver’s license or ID, birth certificate, Social Security card and passport and adjusting Selective Service registration.

A transgender or gender non-conforming person may face humiliation, discrimination and harassment if their core identification documents are not corrected to reflect their gender identity. Only 59 percent of transgender and gender non-conforming people have updated the gender marker on their state ID/driver’s license, while only 26 percent have updated their passport.

The new clinic at the John Marshall Law School adds to the specialties already offered by the school’s Pro Bono Program and Clinic including housing rights, discrimination complaints, police misconduct and expungements.

“The Name and Gender Marker Change Project is another way that the Pro Bono Program and Clinic provides legal services to those in our community who are most in need while at the same time offering our students the opportunity to gain practical legal experience,” said Damian Ortiz, program director of The John Marshall Law School.

Effective immediately, individuals seeking assistance can make an appointment to speak with a law student by contacting the clinic at 312-427-2737, ext. 477. The office line is staffed from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. Any Illinoisan who wants to pursue a name or gender marker change can contact the project. Confidentiality is assured, and the program’s legal services are free.

The partnership with John Marshall is part of Equality Illinois’ agenda to advance lived equality for transgender Illinoisans. In 2014, Equality Illinois published the Guide to Name and Gender Marker Changes in partnership with Seyfarth Shaw, which is also providing advisory support for law students in the clinic. The guide, which can be found at, is a 44-page toolkit of legal instructions and forms for name and gender marker changes, which can be daunting for anyone to conquer without the kind of assistance the clinic will provide.

While working to make the legal process a little smoother, Equality Illinois is also continuing its advocacy for legislation to modernize the standard in Illinois for a transgender person to correct the gender marker on their birth certificate. Equality Illinois advocates will meet with legislators over the summer to discuss the experiences of transgender Illinoisans and build support for the measure.

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