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Wisconsin Supreme Court refuses to let transgender sex offender change her name

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The conservative-led Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled 4-to-3 against allowing a transgender woman to change her name because she is on the state’s sex offender registry. The court says state law forbids people on the registry from changing their names or using aliases.

The 22-year-old trans woman, identified in court documents only as Ella, was placed on the registry after she was convicted at age 15 of sexually assaulting a disabled 14-year-old boy.

Related: Far-right falsely says that the Highland Park shooter is transgender to stop gun control push

Her attorneys said that not allowing her to change her name violated her First and Eighth Amendment rights protecting her free speech and forbidding cruel and unusual punishment, The Huffington Post reported. However, the court disagreed.

“Consistent with well-established precedent, we hold Ella’s placement on the sex offender registry is not a ‘punishment’ under the Eighth Amendment,” Justice Rebecca Bradley wrote in the majority opinion. “Even if it were, sex offender registration is neither cruel nor unusual. We further hold Ella’s right to free speech does not encompass the power to compel the State to facilitate a change of her legal name. ”

The dissenters on the court agreed with Ella’s lawyers that she should be allowed to petition the court to change her name.

“Requiring Ella to maintain a name that is inconsistent with her gender identity and forcing her to out herself every time she presents official documents exposes her to discrimination and abuse,” dissenting Justice Ann Walsh Bradley wrote for the minority.

Advocates argue that allowing trans and non-binary people to legally change their names and gender markers on government documents adds to their sense of mental well-being and reduces the likelihood of misgendering and violence. Not recognizing their gender can contribute to suicidal ideation.

The justices on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court are elected to 10-year terms. A 2016 study by the LGBTQ advocacy group Lambda Legal found that elected judges are less likely to rule in favor of gay rights than their unelected counterparts, partly because they wish to appeal to the voting bases that elected them.

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