Indiana court rules in transgender birth certificate case

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The Indiana Court of Appeals has clarified the process transgender residents can use to legally change their names or birth certificates.

The court ruled unanimously in reversing a Tippecanoe County judge’s decision that required notices about name or gender changes to be published at least three times in a newspaper in the petitioner’s home county, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported.

Appellate court Judge John Baker wrote that county judges can’t add conditions to requests for gender changes to birth certificates if a good faith test is satisfied.

A 2014 ruling by the court found that gender changes to birth certificates are allowed if a judge can determine it’s not being made for an unlawful purpose.

State law requires publication when changing names, though individuals who may be endangered by the publication are exempt.

“The statutory requirement for publication in name-change cases does not apply to gender marker changes,” Baker wrote. “It was erroneous to create a requirement where none exists.”

The judges ruled that name changes can occur without publication if the person seeking the name change has personally experienced discrimination or witnessed attacks that were a result of a person’s transgender status.

The plaintiff in the case, a transgender male transitioning from being a female, witnessed a transgender friend beaten because of her gender identity and was denied an internship when his gender identity didn’t match with his Social Security information.

“Publication of his birth name and new name would enable members of the general public to seek him out, placing him at a significant risk of harm,” the ruling states.

The nature of the internet, where the publication would likely remain widely available, means that notice would leave him at risk for the rest of his life, the court found.

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