© 2024 Michigan State University Board of Trustees
Public Media from Michigan State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Bill package would support gender identity, legal name changes

 michigan state capitol
Megan Schellong

Updated 11:43 a.m. ET Nov. 3, 2023

A bill package introduced in the state Legislature Thursday would secure gender identity changes on government documents and remove obstacles for residents who want to change their legal name.

In recent years, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson introduced policies to allow residents to update their sex designation on state identification cards, such as a driver’s license or birth certificate. That includes an option to add an ‘X’ to signify a license holder identifies as nonbinary.

State Representative Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) said those changes should be codified as state law. She's sponsoring legislation that would make the policies on modifying sex designation permanent.

“While we have a great and progressive Secretary of State in Jocelyn Benson, that will obviously not always be the case," Pohutsky said. "We want to make sure that this is in statute and not just something that can be undone easily when we eventually have a different Secretary of State.”

The package also includes a proposal to allow individuals to update their sex designation on their birth certificates, putting the state in line with a previous opinion from Attorney General Dana Nessel. In 2021, Nessel declared Michigan residents do not require proof of sex-reassignment surgery to modify their birth certificate’s official gender.

A separate bill could make it easier for more residents to change their legal name.

Current rules accommodate Michiganders changing their name during marriage, but Pohutsky said the name change process is a lot harder for other groups, like people filing for divorce or victims of domestic violence.

“It can be very onerous and confusing and expensive,” Pohutsky said. “It's a frustrating process to go through.”

The legislation would remove some roadblocks in the legal name change process — including the option to request confidential court proceedings for residents facing domestic violence.

The package of bills has been referred to the House's Judiciary Committee.

Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
Journalism at this station is made possible by donors who value local reporting. Donate today to keep stories like this one coming. It is thanks to your generosity that we can keep this content free and accessible for everyone. Thanks!