Metro Weekly

Transgender man sues Indiana over citizenship requirement for legal name change

John Doe, an Indiana resident since age six, is barred from requesting a name change by a 2010 state law

Photo: Famartin, via Wikimedia Commons.
Photo: Famartin, via Wikimedia Commons.

A transgender man who has been granted asylum in the United States is suing over an Indiana state law that requires him to provide proof of citizenship before he can legally change his name to reflect his gender identity. The 31-year-old man, known as “John Doe,” is suing Hosier State officials, including Gov. Mike Pence, the Republican Party’s vice presidential candidate, arguing that the law is unconstitutional.

John Doe was born in Mexico but raised in Indiana since he was six years old. He has lived his entire adult life as a man and is recognized as a male on all official U.S. documents and his Indiana state ID. But he is prohibited from changing his legal name because of a 2010 law that precludes non-citizens — even if they are legal residents — from asking for a name change.

“I want to use a name that is in line with my true identity,” John Doe said in a statement. “Without a legal name change, I am forced to use an I.D. that is inconsistent with who I am and puts me in danger of harassment, violence, and being outed as transgender whenever I present it. I am simply asking for equal treatment under the law.”

Aided by lawyers from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and Transgender Law Center, Doe argues that the citizenship requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause that guarantees individuals will not be discriminated against based on their alienage. His legal team is also arguing the law violates the First Amendment right to freedom of speech by compelling their client to betray and falsely communicate his identity.

“Mr. Doe faces discrimination and harassment regularly because he cannot obtain a change of legal name and update his official documents,” the complaint reads. “Mr. Doe’s inability to change his legal name and update his ID has caused him serious emotional distress and difficulty in his day-today activities every time he is required to present his government-issued ID.

“When others see Mr. Doe’s ID, they often suspect or realize that he is transgender. Others question whether the ID is a fake and suggest that he is committing fraud. To allay those accusations of fraud, Mr. Doe is often forced to disclose and explain his transgender status,” the complaint continues. Mr. Doe feels uncomfortable by the reactions of others when they see his ID. He fears harassment, arrest, or even violence at the hands of anyone who sees his ID.”

The complaint provides three examples of when Doe has been discriminated against or treated unfairly — during a traffic stop, during a visit to the emergency room, and when ordering a drink at a restaurant —  because people either didn’t believe his ID was real, or wished to ridicule him because of his transgender status.

“This law is a Catch-22 for the plaintiff and other transgender individuals in Indiana who are not yet able to become citizens,” Doe’s attorney Barbara Baird said in a statement. “Their immigration status should not prevent them from obtaining a change of legal name so that they can safely navigate their daily lives with identity documents that are consistent with their gender.”

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