Federal court dismisses lawsuit in transgender name change case

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A lawsuit surrounding an Indiana immigration law and its effects on a transgender man who wants to change his legal name has been dismissed.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana granted a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.

The suit was filed in September 2016 against then-vice presidential candidate and former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and other officials, including former Attorney General Greg Zoeller, Marion County Clerk Myla Eldridge and retired Indiana Supreme Court Division of State Court Administration Executive Director Lilia Judson.

A transgender man identified in court documents as “John Doe” said Indiana law prevented him from changing his legal name. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and Transgender Law Center filed the lawsuit on behalf of the 31-year-old resident.

The group challenged a 2010 state law requiring proof of citizenship to obtain a change of someone’s legal name.

The plaintiff was granted asylum in 2015. He was born in Mexico and raised in Indiana, where he moved with his family when he was 6 years old. Although born and raised as a girl, John Doe has lived his entire adult life as a man.

He is recognized as a male on all official U.S. documentation and his Indiana state ID. However, he has been unable to change his name because of the 2010 state law, which the group said prevents non-citizens, including legal residents, from petitioning the state for a name change.

The group said the state law violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. Attorneys also alleged the law violated the First Amendment.

A federal court dismissed the lawsuit in a ruling Monday, citing “lack of jurisdiction.”

Kris Hayashi, executive director of Transgender Law Center, issued the following statement about the ruling:

“We’re disappointed by today’s ruling, but remain confident in our case challenging the discriminatory and unconstitutional Indiana law that forces our client to use an I.D. that doesn’t match who he truly is. This ruling was simply procedural, and does not get at the heart of the questions raised by the lawsuit about the rights of transgender immigrants. Without a legal name change, our client must open himself up daily to harassment, discrimination, and being outed as transgender. It’s not right, and we will continue to fight for our client’s ability to navigate life safely and fairly.”