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ACLU files appeal in case of transgender woman denied name change

Monday, October 1, 2012
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OKLAHOMA CITY, OK — The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma (ACLU) has announced that it will represent a transgender woman who was denied a name change by an Oklahoma judge who told her “you can’t change what God gave you.”

The ACLU is seeking to overturn a ruling by Oklahoma County District Court Judge Bill Graves, who denied an application by Angela Ingram to change her legally recognized name from James Dean Ingram to Angela Renee Ingram. Angela lives as a woman, and is seeking to change her legal name to match her identity.

Angela Renee Ingram

Prior to denying Angela’s request to change her name, Graves had denied another application for a name change because that applicant, like Angela, “did not conform to his narrow concept of gender identity,” the ACLU said, in a statement.

In both cases, Graves denied the name change requests, citing science, DNA, and God’s own desire “for them to stay male.”

“What we do see here is evidence of an imposition of a personal idea of what gender is supposed to be,” said Brady Henderson, Legal Director of the ACLU of Oklahoma. “The fact is we have a choice over what our names are and what the names of our children are and in this case we feel that Angela was denied that choice unfairly.”

“Oklahoma law guarantees any person the right to change his or her name, so long as the change is not part of fraudulent or illegal activity, such as a fugitive attempting to evade capture by law enforcement,” added Henderson.

“Judge Graves chose to disregard Oklahoma law and basic constitutional principles of free speech and equal protection. His decision represents a shocking and dangerous attempt to radically expand governmental control over citizens’ most personal choice,” he said.

Graves said he stands by his position. “If you’re born male, you stay male, according to the study I’ve done on DNA. If you’re born female, you stay female.”

Last year, Graves told 62-year-old Steven Charles Harvey — who was seeking to legally change to Christie Ann Harvey — that a person cannot really change his or her sex because the person’s DNA stays the same, and because “God created man in his own image.”

The appeal, filed Sept. 27, will be decided by the Justices of the Oklahoma Supreme Court or referred to the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals for a decision.

Either court will have the option of reversing Judge Graves’s decision outright, or of remanding the case to give Judge Graves another opportunity to apply the law properly.

The Oklahoman noted that five other Oklahoma County judges who handle name change requests said that they routinely grant them in transgender cases.

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