How to Change Your Name for a Political Statement

How to Change Your Name for a Political Statement

A name change to support your cause can be a powerful statement. In 2008, some Obama supporters changed their middle name to Hussein to support the then democratic presidential candidate. During the 2008 electoral campaign, adversaries would use the candidate’s middle name as a political liability – referring to Muslim and terrorist connections. The mass name change by his followers was a political statement to illustrate how little emphasis someone should put on a name. 

Find out more about how to change your name for political reasons in the topics below:

  • Steps to change full names
  • Barriers to changing names for a political stance
  • History of politically driven name changes

Steps to Change Full Names

While getting married or divorced are the two easiest times for changing last names, applicants may change their full names at any time. Legal name changes require filing the necessary paperwork with the state you live in. Some states require background checks, fingerprinting or notarized paperwork before you can filename change forms with the court.

When attempting to change names, legal immigrants, felons and those in certain professions will need additional affidavits and documents. All professional licenses or certifications required to practice employment (like those of doctors and lawyers) must reflect any name changes. Some states like Texas also require sex offenders to notify local law enforcement and file an offender update form. 

Immigrants may need to prove legal status to change full names, though select states only allow name changes for American citizens. An Indiana court denied a transgender man the ability to change his name because he is not a U.S. citizen. While noncitizens are not legally required to make changes to their Alien Registration Receipt Card after a name change, doing so is important because employment opportunities, banks and other agencies will need proof of legal residency.  

Most local civil courts accept name change documents by mail or in person. Once the civil court files the application, applicants are given a court date for a name change hearing. Filing fees for legal name changes typically cost hundreds of dollars in most states. 

Some states require a notification of a name change prior to the hearing.To change names in California, residents must publish an Order to Show Cause for Change of Name in an approved newspaper one day per week for four weeks. In Oregon, legal name changes are posted for 14 days on the court notice board.Also, proof of notification is required at hearings in states where publication is required. 

In some states, a judge will ask questions pertaining to the reason behind your name change request. Any legal reason for changing your name is acceptable. However, unacceptable reasons include:

  • The intent to commit fraud.
  • Avoiding financial or judicial liability.
  • Pursing an intentionally confusing name.

Barriers to Changing Names for a Political Stance

While applicants can get a name change that alters their first, middle, last or entire name, there are legal restrictions.Legal name change limits vary in each state but typically do not tolerate changes that have a fraudulent intent, that are offensive or that are copyrighted. Applicants cannot change a full name or a partial name to a racial slur or a word that incites violence. Examples of types of names that will not be granted include:

  • Numbers.
  • Names of famous people.
  • Punctuation marks like “?”.
  • Trademarks like McDonald’s.

If your desired name change falls into one of the categories, there may be ways around the restrictions. The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that a resident could not change names from Dengler to “1069” but ruled that Mr. Dengler could go by One Zero Six Nine.  

Name changes that are the same as celebrities, politicians and other well-known individuals are tricky. The applicant must prove that the change is not for fraudulent purposes. However, in other countries, individuals have changed names to American trademark brand names like Google and Metallica.

History of Politically Driven Name Changes

Known for his opposition to abortion, senate candidate Marvin Richardson had a legal name change to alter his middle name to “Pro-Life” in 2004. However,the Idaho politician’s middle name was banned from ballots due to a state policy of neutrality. Richardson then changed his full name to “Pro-Life” in 2006, which forced election officials to print the politically charged name on ballots. Another political hopeful and former tax assessor, Byron Looper legally had his middle name changed from Anthony to “Low Tax” to advance his political career in 1996. 

Members of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)are known for changing their legal names to websites in an effort to raise awareness for their cause. PETA associates used Goveg, Kentuckyfriedcruelty and Ringlingbeatsanimals on their driver licenses, debit cards and at work, even changing last names to “Com” for the full effect. Though the legal name change was temporary for most, the members pique the interest of many.

Basketball player Ron Artest changed his name to Metta World Peace in 2011. By changing his last name to “World Peace,” the Los Angeles Laker marketed his hope on the back of his jersey each game. His daughter Diamond also changed her surname to World Peace. Another basketball player, Lloyd Bernard Free, had his first name changed to World in 1981 and played under the name World B. Free.