U.S. Sixth Circuit - The FindLaw 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Judge Sued for Denying Name Changes to Transgender Children

It's almost a maxim that half of the people in a courtroom -- other than the judge and staff -- go home unhappy.

Judge Joseph W. Kirby knows that; appeals are a given for trial judges. However, he didn't expect the legal backfire that hit him after he denied name changes to parents of transgender children.

In Whitaker v. Kirby, the plaintiffs have sued the Ohio judge for allegedly discriminating against transgender children. It may be a short-lived suit because of judicial immunity, but the issue is not going away.

Three Mothers

Stephanie Whitaker, Jennifer Shaul and "Jane Doe" have sued Kirby for violating the Equal Protection Clause. Their attorneys want a declaratory judgment, attorney's fees and costs.

They allege Kirby "has a pattern and practice of treating name change requests from transgender adolescents differently than other name change requests." They say the judge either denied their requests, or treated them differently.

The judge has not responded, but the complaint contains copies of his rulings. In each case, Kirby concluded the name change was not in the child's best interests

In Whitaker's case, the parents wanted their 14-year-old daughter to have a name change to reflect her gender identification as a male. Kirby said it's a decision she can make when she becomes an adult.

Caitlyn Jenner

Whitaker said Judge Kirby was not sincerely interested in her daughter's gender identity. The mother said the judge's concerns resulted from "media coverage of the transition by Caitlyn Jenner." According to Whitaker's complaint, Judge Kirby asked the girl whether she had considered gender reassignment surgery and whether she was attracted to women.

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