Lambda Legal Urges Georgia Appeals Court to Grant Name Change for Second Transgender Man

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“The court should not be allowed to double down on discrimination and deny another transgender person the right to change their name.”
September 8, 2016

(Atlanta, September 8, 2016) — Lambda Legal filed a brief today in the Georgia Court of Appeals on behalf of Andrew Baumert, a transgender man whose petition to legally change his name was denied by the same trial court that denied Rowan Feldhaus’s name change in June. Lambda Legal is handling both appeals.

“The court should not be allowed to double down on discrimination and deny another transgender person the right to change their name. When Andrew, Rowan and so many other transgender people go to the court to change their legal name, it is an important step towards validating who they are,” said Beth Littrell, Senior Attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office in Atlanta. “There are only a few exceptions that allow a court to deny someone the right to change their name.  Being transgender is not one of those exceptions. A name change is time-consuming and costly and should not be denied based on sexist notions or transgender bias.”

Andrew Baumert, 21, is from Augusta, GA. He began graduate school at Georgia State this year with the hopes of receiving his M.D. and conducting cancer research. Andrew graduated with two bachelor’s degrees, from Augusta University and Georgia Military College, where he enrolled as a first-year student when he was only 16. Although doctors assigned his sex as female at birth, Andrew’s gender identity, and therefore his sex, is male.  In January 2016, he took a critical step to be acknowledged for who he is by filing a petition for name change in the Superior Court of Columbia County Georgia.

At the hearing on his petition, held on June 2, 2016, Andrew provided all the necessary information for a name change.  Andrew’s mother, father and grandmother went to the hearing with him and his mother testified to how Andrew did not “feel comfortable in his skin” prior to his transition and that he had a “team of doctors” who were treating him for gender dysphoria. After only nine minutes, the court denied Andrew’s request for a name change applying the same discriminatory “policy” as applied to Rowan, that “ [it] will not change a name from an obviously female to an obviously male name, and vice versa.”

Superior Court Judge J. David Roper said “my policy is to allow someone who claims to be transgendering [sic]  —and I’ve had them in various stages—my policy is to permit someone to change, in your case, from an obviously—what appears to me to be a female name to something that is gender–neutral.” In denying Andrew’s petition, the court suggested several names “I can live with,” including Morgan, Shannon, Shaun and Jaimie. Roper said that for Andrew to have a name that matches his gender identity would “confuse or mislead the general public.” Lambda Legal is appealing the denial and challenging the judge’s unfair and unlawful policy.

“It was humiliating and insulting to be told by the court that I would not be able to change my name legally when I’m already known as Andrew by my family, my friends, and my community,” said Andrew. “I work in labs all day, but it doesn’t take a scientist to know that this judge’s ruling was based on sexist opinions about ‘appropriate’ names. It’s hurtful to think about how many people were targets of the judge’s policy, like Rowan and me, simply because we are transgender. I just want my name to reflect who I am.”

In the brief filed today Lambda Legal argues that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied Andrew Baumert’s name change even though he met all the necessary criteria because the decision was arbitrary and based on insufficient reasons. The brief also argues that the court’s denial was unlawful discrimination based on sex and a violation of Andrew’s First Amendment right to freedom of expression.

Lambda Legal attorneys Beth Littrell and Dru Levasseur are representing Andrew along with co-counsel Merritt McAlister and Sedric Bailey of King & Spalding, LLP.

Read the brief http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/baumert_ga_20160908_brief...

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Contact Info

Jonathan Adams; 212-809-8585 ext 267; Cell: 646-752-3251; Email jadams@lambdalegal.org

Related Issues: Transgender Rights

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