Justice Recorded: Man with no name gets legal identity

Back when he was a teenager, the now 27-year-old man was shocked when he found out he had no first name, legally speaking.

He and his mother had ordered a copy of his birth certificate so he could get legal identification. To their surprise it came back with his name as “Unrecorded” and his mother’s last name.

He had a first name. He had used it his whole life. It was on his hospital birth records. But legally his first name was “Unrecorded.”

He and his mother tried to get his birth certificate corrected by contacting the state Department of Vital Record, but were told they needed to do a legal name change first. They had no idea how to do that and could not afford an attorney.

The lack of a birth certificate and legal ID hindered the man in the ensuing years in many ways, from continuing his education to applying for apartments and jobs.

Luckily, he recently learned from friends about the AIDS Law Project’s clinic at Prevention Point Philadelphia in Kensington. The clinic is specifically designed to help people get birth certificates and legal identification. The man does not have HIV and is not a Prevention Point client, but the clinic is open to everyone.

We first tried to fix the problem administratively, but were again told the man would have to legally change his name from “Unrecorded” to the name he actually uses.

A few legal twists and turns later, we recently handed him his new birth certificate and he can get on with his life.