Parents of trans teens sue Ohio judge for refusing to approve gender-confused name changes
CLEVELAND, Ohio, August 7, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Three Ohio mothers are suing a probate judge in Warren County for telling them he won’t approve their gender-confused children’s attempts to legally change their names until they’re legal adults.
Stephanie Whitaker, Jennifer Saul, and a woman identified only as Jane Doe all have teenage children they say are receiving both therapy and medical treatment for gender dysphoria. The mothers say both they and their children’s doctors support changing their names, WCPO reports.
However, they’re suing Warren County Probate and Juvenile Court Judge Joseph Kirby in federal court for what they say is a legally-unfounded pattern of hostility to such requests. The lawsuit (which can be read in full here) alleges that Kirby has flouted standard procedure by assigning transgender name change hearings to himself while delegating more routine name-change cases to magistrate judges.
Notably, Whitaker’s child is the only one of the three to actually have been denied so far, with Saul’s hearing set for August 14 and Doe’s not yet filed.
“Forcing children to wait until they’re 18 to change their names increases their risk of being outed and bullied, having violence perpetrated against them and having depressive symptoms,” their attorney Joshua Langdon told NBC News. He claimed the name changes were important for documents such as driver’s licenses and college applications, and that calling trans teens by their birth names was even a contributing factor to attempted suicide.
In court Kirby reportedly prodded teens about their preferred restrooms and locker rooms and whether their desires to transition were related to their sexual attraction, and speculated as to whether Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner “set the stage” for the current wave of gender “transitions.”
Kirby said he based his denials on a judge’s responsibility to consider a child’s best interests. "The court is sympathetic to the parents of the child and their desire to assuage their child," he said in one case. "In essence, the court isn’t saying ‘no’ to the name change. The court is simply saying ‘not yet.' Age. Develop. Mature.”
But the “only time the court is supposed to step in is if there’s a disagreement among the parties,” Langdon argues, claiming that Kirby has exceeded his authority.
According to LegalZoom, Ohio “allows the change for any reason a parent or legal guardian deems sufficient,” with the only restriction being that names cannot be changed “for fraudulent purposes” such as evading legal penalties or obligations related to identity fraud or sex abuse.
“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 Joshua Engel claimed.
However, when The Daily Wire’s Ashe Schow pressed Engel on claiming Kirby “intentionally discriminated against transgender people” despite approving name changes for transgender adults, Engel’s answer–that adult approvals were “not a relevant comparator” because “the Court is required to consider the ‘best interest of the child’”–seemingly admitted that Kirby has legal authority to exercise personal discretion in such cases.
As for the core question of gender-confused teens’ best interests, many experts dispute the judgment of the plaintiffs’ doctors.
Studies indicate that between 80-90 percent of children experiencing gender dysphoria outgrow it on their own by late adolescence. In cases where it persists, even “identity” reinforcement up to and including full gender “reassignment” surgery often fails to resolve gender-confused individuals’ heightened tendency to engage in self-harm.
Last year, the University of Cambridge’s Stonewall report found that 96% of trans students in Scotland attempted self-harm through actions such as cutting themselves, and 40% attempted suicide. 40% in the United States have attempted suicide, as well, according to a 2016 survey from the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE). According to a 2011 study out of Sweden, trans people remain 19 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population, even after sex-reassignment surgery.
Officials from Kirby’s office say the judge, who has served on the bench since 1996 and teaches criminal justice at Miami University Hamilton, has been unable to comment on the story as he’s been out of state.