Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Indiana's Bar On Name Changes By Non-Citizens Challenged As Violating Transgender Rights

Yesterday the battle over transgender rights-- which has often had religious overtones-- took a different turn with the filing of a federal court lawsuit by a transgender male from Mexico who was granted political asylum in the United States and who lives in Indiana.  At issue is an Indiana law that prohibits non-citizens from obtaining a legal change of name. The complaint (full text) in Doe v. Pence, (SD IN, filed 9/13/2016), contends that the law violates plaintiff's 1st and 14th Amendment rights, saying in part:
For a transgender person, a change of name is in many cases a necessary part of treatment for Gender Dysphoria....  Transgender people face a heightened risk of discrimination, harassment, and violence when their transgender status is known to others. Being referred to by or having to identify oneself by a name traditionally associated with the person’s sex assigned at birth, rather than with the person’s lived gender, can “out” a transgender person to others, revealing their private medical information and putting them at serious risk of harm.
Plaintiff asserts, in in addition to equal protection, autonomy and privacy claims, a free speech right to change his name:
Indiana Code Section 34-28-2-2.5(a)(5) violates the First Amendment right to freedom of speech by compelling speech from Plaintiff that betrays and falsely communicates the core of who he is.... For transgender persons, communicating their name and expressing their gender is speech protected by the First Amendment. Plaintiff’s adoption of the traditionally masculine name “John” conveys the message that he is a man, an essential component of personal identity.
MALDEF issued a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit. Wall Street Journal reports on the lawsuit.