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State urges judges to uphold felon name change restrictions

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PITTSBURGH (AP) — A lawyer with the Pennsylvania attorney general's office told a panel of judges Thursday to uphold a state law that bars some convicted felons from legally changing their names, in a case brought by three transgender women.

Alexander Korn said during Commonwealth Court oral argument in Pittsburgh that overturning that provision of the Name Change Act could frustrate employers seeking accurate background checks, the Post-Gazette reported.

The women are unable to change their masculine first names because of a 1998 state law that was designed to prevent fraud.

Their lawyer said it was not fair to assume that all convicted felons who want to change their names have fraudulent purposes, the paper said.

The women sued the state, the Department of State and its secretary, Kathy Boockvar. The Post-Gazette said the judges appeared to focus on whether the plaintiff had sued the correct parties.

Pennsylvania law requires anyone convicted of a felony to wait at least two years after completion of their sentence to apply for a name change, and those convicted of certain more serious felonies are permanently barred from changing their names.

Two of the plaintiffs have felony convictions for aggravated assault and the third for rape, so the permanent ban applies to them.

Transgender people sued to challenge similar laws in Illinois and Wisconsin in May, and three current and former transgender federal inmates in Texas sued over another such law in December.

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