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Name Change Appeal Fails Due to Citizenship Conundrum

By George Khoury, Esq. on March 07, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A transgender individual seeking a name change in Indiana has been denied that right by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. However, the court did not rule against the individual person so much as they rigidly applied the law to the case at hand, as this was no ordinary name change.

The individual seeking a new name came to the United States at the age of 5, over 20 years ago. Recently, in addition to marrying a U.S. citizen and having a child, they obtained asylum status as returning to their home country as a transgender individual is not safe. Unfortunately, as a result of the asylum status and not being a U.S. citizen, the Indiana courts could not process the name change.

Official Matters

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals explained that the lawsuit filed by the individual was not filed against anyone who had the power or authority to make the name change happen. However, the dissent opined that the junction of power between all the named defendants, and the justice of the issue, warranted the circuit's action. Notably, the petitioner seems all but assured a path to citizenship, but the Indiana law requires an individual be able to prove current U.S. citizenship to be able change their name.

For the individual, this name change is extraordinarily important because of the number of times in the past, and the number of times in the future, where his name and identity don't match what appears on official identification and this results in ridicule, embarrassment, or harassment. As the dissent noted, this case involves matters that could just be resolved so that the person doesn't have to withstand the harms caused by an overly rigid bureaucracy.

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