The spirit of transgender activist Rowan Feldhaus lives on at Augusta Pride in a free or low-cost legal clinic to assist with name change petitions, organizers say.
Feldhaus appealed a local judge’s denial of his petition and changed state law prior to his unexpected death last month due to complications from surgery.
His success inspired a group of area attorneys and legal professionals to host a clinic Friday evening and Saturday during Augusta Pride events where transgender people can get assistance filing name change petitions or amending earlier petitions to get their names changed.
Attorney Matthew Duncan, a Pride organizer and board member with the statewide advocacy group Georgia Equality, said a local medical clinic for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people mentioned receiving numerous requests for help with name changes.
“Your name is a very personal part of your identity, and trans individuals deserve the right to a legal name that reflects their true identity,” Duncan said. “A group of fair-minded local attorneys want to help reduce the cost for those individuals to change their names – we want to help anyone who is a member of the trans community secure their true identity.”
The effort has support from Georgia Legal Services’ Augusta office, which provides legal assistance at no cost to those eligible . David Bartholomew, an attorney with the office, said advocating for the area’s neediest and most vulnerable is its mission.
“We know that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are a vulnerable minority and that many may be poor and a natural fit for our services,” Bartholomew said.
Prior to Feldhaus, local judges routinely denied name change petitions, leaving applicants the option only of filing costly appeals or moving to another state. The successful appeal established that everyone has the right to change their name.
A close friend of Feldhaus who assisted with his petition and appeal, paralegal Meg Adams said the Pride clinic aspires to guide trans persons though the process of filing a petition or amending an earlier petition that was denied at little or no cost.
“We want to get the word out there, especially to trans people that they should have no fear of filing a petition to change their name because of the opinion issued in Rowan’s case, without fear of bias on the bench.”
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