It could soon be illegal for sex offenders to legally change their names if a new law passes.
The bill by Sen. Kyle Loveless has already swept through the Senate. Lawmakers say it will keep offenders from avoiding background checks. Loveless says some sex offenders, who are repeat offenders, have the ability to change their name multiple times to avoid screening processes and evade the law, and he hopes his bill will put an end to it.
"Changing your name is a thing if you want to do you should be able to do except if you have violated a child," said Loveless, Republican Senator, representing Oklahoma's 45th district. "It's one of those things I wish we didn't have to do as a society, but when we're protecting our little ones, I think it's a common sense approach."
Senate Bill 1421 is supposed to help law enforcement better track down sex offenders who legally have their names changed after they register as a sex offender.
"It's terribly simple and that's part of the problem. All they have to do is go to a judge and file a simple form. They don't need a lawyer. They can do it themselves and then they can legally change their name," Loveless said.
Loveless says offenders who bypass the law can live next schools and playgrounds, like Lawton sex offender Steven Steffens, who changed his name three times before being hired as a school bus driver in 2011.
Steffens worked for the school for four months and Lawton Police say he was able to fly under the radar after legally changing his name more than 20 years ago.
"As a parent that scares me. I mean a teacher could possibly be a sex offender and just have their name changed, and I don't think that's right either," said Chantal Morris, a mother of two. "I don't think it's fair for sex offenders to get a brand new start when the victims are still left dealing with all the baggage of it."
Opponents of the bill say it won't help much since there's already a state law prohibiting a person from changing their name for an illegal or fraudulent purpose.
"Obviously, we don't want sex offenders driving school buses, but this doesn't fix it. If a person illegally changes their name, there's already a penalty for that, right now it's a misdemeanor, they could've made that penalty a felony," said attorney Philip C. Winters.
"Sex offenders can also be targeted for crimes, and there are legitimate reasons for their change name whether that be for marriage or safety, as long as they keep registering as they're supposed to, there's no problem."
After receiving unanimous bipartisan support, the bill now heads to the house for a vote. Loveless hopes it will be signed into law by the governor in the next couple months.