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Judge who blocked name changes for transgender teens faces lawsuit

Nick Duffy August 6, 2018

A judge who blocked name changes for transgender teenager is facing a lawsuit.

Judge Joseph Kirby, the Probate and Juvenile Court judge in Warren County, Ohio, is alleged to have denied legal name changes to at least three transgender teens.

He denied 15-year old Elliott Whitaker a legal name change at Warren County Juvenile Court in June, telling the teen to come back when he is 18.

(Flickr/Brian Turner)
(Flickr/Brian Turner)

State law does not require people to be 18 to secure a legal change of name, which is separate from legal gender recognition, but the judge ruled that the teen lacked the “maturity, knowledge and stability” to make such a decision.

Transcripts from the hearing show a bizarre line of questioning as the judge interrogated Whitaker about his bathroom choice, repeatedly referred to trans people using the wrong pronouns, and appeared to suggest Caitlyn Jenner was making kids transgender.

The judge had rhetorically asked if “all this” had started “when all of this stuff came out in the media”, referring to Jenner.

Two other teens, a 15 year old and a 17 year old, were also denied name changes by the same judge with identical orders.

In all three cases the teens had been receiving therapy and treatment for gender dysphoria, and doctors had supported their legal change of name.

The families of the three teens this week filed a joint suit against Kirby in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

The suit, filed by Josh Langdon, LLC and Engel & Martin, LLC, alleges the judge’s actions amount to unconstitutional discrimination against the teens, claiming he treated transgender adolescents unfavorably because of their gender identity.

Attorney Josh Langdon said: “Denying transgender children the ability to legally change their names until age 18 can lead to significant and irreparable harm, and increases their risk of being outed and bullied, having violence perpetrated against them, having depressive symptoms, and attempting suicide.

“The judge failed to consider the evidence presented by the families and doctors that the name change is in the best interest of the teenager and, instead, substituted his own skeptical views.”

Attorney Josh Langdon

The suit states: “[Plaintiffs] have been treated by the Defendant differently from others similarly situated without a rational basis for doing so. Judge Kirby violated the Equal Protection Clause’s prohibition against sex-based discrimination when the judge treated transgender adolescents unfavorably because of their gender identity.

“Judge Kirby has facially and intentionally discriminated against the Plaintiffs in violation of the Equal Protection guarantees of the 14th Amendment on the basis of sex and transgender status by depriving transgender adolescents the ability to change their name. Non-transgender adolescents are not deprived of this ability to change their names.

“Defendant’s actions deny transgender people, including Plaintiffs, access to legal documents and the ability to legally change their names.

“Defendant’s refusal to allow transgender children to change their legal name erects a barrier to the full recognition, participation, and inclusion of transgender people in society and subjects them to discrimination, privacy invasions, harassment, humiliation, stigma, harm to their health, and even violence.”

Judge Kirby was not available for comment.

Caitlyn Jenner previously slammed the official for invoking her in the decision.

She said: “It has come to my attention that a judge in Ohio thinks I’m brainwashing kids into being trans.

“For me, being trans has been a great gift. It’s been the most profound, growing experience of my life. But we’re in the thick of some very difficult, scary and dangerous times in our community, especially trans people of colour. Why anyone would choose to embark upon a trans journey if they don’t really feel that way is beyond me.

“My coming out publicly wasn’t to brainwash people, it was to let the mainstream world know we exist, we’re here and it isn’t a mental illness. I send a message to Elliot in Ohio – your identity is real, and we are behind you 100 percent to build a safer world.”

More: gender, judge, lawsuit, LGBT, Teen, Trans, Transgender, US

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