LYNCHBURG, Va. — A Virginia transgender woman who was denied a name change by a Lynchburg, Va., circuit court judge earlier this year is due back in court on Friday for a second hearing on her request..
Julianna Fialkowski says she believes she is being discriminated against because she is transgender.Fialkowski, 24, who recently completed her first year of hormone treatments, submitted her request for a name change to the Lynchburg Circuit Court in December 2013, but was asked to return a few weeks later for a hearing on the matter.
At the hearing, Judge F. Patrick Yeatts asked Fialkowski about her medical history, how far she was in transition, and if she had gone through gender reassignment surgery.
“I’d been dealing with trying to actualize this for about a decade,” said Fialkowski who was surprised she was even summoned to court.
According to Fialkowski, Yeatts told her the case was under “extra scrutiny” and it would be put under advisement.
Two weeks after the hearing, a notice came in the mail denying Fialkowski the name change. “I haven’t faced any discrimination up until this point,” she said.
Virginia’s name change laws are some of the easiest in the nation. The process consists of a few forms and a small fee. When GayRVA reached out for legal advice for those denied a name change, lawyers were surprised to hear it even happens.
When contacted, a clerk’s office worker said any reason for denial should have been given to Fialkowski along side the denial letter, however none was provided. Requests to speak with Judge Yeatts were not granted.
“There is nothing in the statute that requires the applicant provide medical information. The application merely requires some demographic information (e.g. name, address, parent’s names, prior name changes etc.) and whether or not you are a felon or are incarcerated,” said Katie Feltcher, the attorney now representing Fialkowski ahead of a second hearing scheduled for Friday.
“The statute indicates that the name change will be granted unless the name change is being done for a fraudulent purpose or infringes upon someone else’s rights.” said Feltcher.
“We will not be presenting any medical information, we will not answering any questions about medical information, and if the judge denies it again, we’ll appeal it to the Supreme Court of Virginia,” she said.
Yeatts served as counsel to Jerry Falwell’s conservative Liberty University in the 1990′s, and he was a legislative aide for state Sen. Stephen Newman when the Senator wrote Virginia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, the Marshall-Newman amendment. He was elected to the Lynchburg judgeship in 2011 by the state’s General Assembly.
Fialkowski’s case marks the second time in a year a transgender person in Virginia has been denied a named change after Jacob Haley was asked for medical records before being granted a name change by a Louisa County judge.
Haley was eventually granted the name change after a subsequent hearing in which the judge repeatedly referred to him as “she” and “miss.”