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District court tosses transgender man’s name-change suit

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A district court judge has dismissed a suit brought against former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and other state officials by a transgender man who claims his non-citizen status prohibits him from legally changing his name to match his gender identity.

When John Doe brought his case before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, he claimed that Pence, former Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and Marion County Clerk Myra Eldridge violated his constitutional rights under the First and 14th Amendments through a state statute prohibiting non-citizens from legally changing their names. Doe came to the United States from Mexico in 1990 and was granted in asylum in 2015 after the U.S. government determined that his status as a transgender man would put him in danger in his home country.

When Doe, whose legal name is “Jane,” visited the Marion County Clerk’s office to fill out an application to legally change his name to “John” to match his identity as a male, the clerk’s office staff informed him that his petition would not receive final approval if he could not provide proof of citizenship. Doe claimed the applicable statute, Indiana Code section 34-28-2-2.5, is a violation of his First and 14th Amendment rights, but Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson dismissed his case Monday for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

The defendants, which later included Lillia Judson, the former executive director of the Indiana Supreme Court Division of State Court Administration, each moved to dismiss Doe’s case for lack of standing under Rule 12(b)(1). Specifically, the defendants alleged that because Doe never actually filled out the application to change his name, he cannot establish an actual injury. Further, the defendants argued that Doe will be able to apply for a name change once he becomes a citizen, so his legal claim is actually a question of timing.

Pence and Zoeller argued that their general roles as enforcers of state law did not give them specific authority to challenge or enforce the section of Indiana Code at issue here. Magnus-Stinson agreed, holding that because Doe did not establish that his injuries can be traced to either the former governor or attorney general, his claims against them cannot stand.

In regard to his claims against Judson, Doe held that she contributed in part to his injuries because her office published forms to “prevent or discourage non-citizens from accessing changes of legal name.” But Doe did not provide any allegations as to what role the forms play in the process of applying for and granting a name-change petition, the chief judge said, so he failed to establish a causal connection between Judson and his injuries.

Finally, with respect to Eldridge, Magnus-Stinson wrote that although her office informed Doe that his petition would not be granted, it had no authority to screen out any name-change petitions that were filed. Thus, if Doe had filed his petition, the clerk’s office would have accepted it and forwarded it to the proper court for resolution, rather than acting on it to enforce section 34-28-2-2.5.

Based on that evidence, Magnus-Stinson wrote that Doe failed to prove that any of the defendants had caused his injuries or that judgment against them would redress those alleged injuries. Thus, the 12(b)(1) motions were granted and the case was dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Barbara Baird, an Indianapolis attorney who represented Doe along with national Mexican and transgender rights groups, was not immediately available for comment Monday.  The order can be read here

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  1. Unlike the federal judge who refused to protect me, the Virginia State Bar gave me a hearing. After the hearing, the Virginia State Bar refused to discipline me. VSB said that attacking me with the court ADA coordinator had, " all the grace and charm of a drive-by shooting." One does wonder why the VSB was able to have a hearing and come to that conclusion, but the federal judge in Indiana slammed the door of the courthouse in my face.

  2. I agree. My husband has almost the exact same situation. Age states and all.

  3. Thanks Jim. We surprised ourselves with the first album, so we did a second one. We are releasing it 6/30/17 at the HiFi. The reviews so far are amazing! www.itsjustcraig.com Skope Mag: It’s Just Craig offers a warm intimacy with the tender folk of “Dark Corners”. Rather lovely in execution, It’s Just Craig opts for a full, rich sound. Quite ornate instrumentally, the songs unfurl with such grace and style. Everything about the album feels real and fully lived. By far the highlight of the album are the soft smooth reassuring vocals whose highly articulate lyrics have a dreamy quality to them. Stories emerge out of these small snapshots of reflective moments.... A wide variety of styles are utilized, with folk anchoring it but allowing for chamber pop, soundtrack work, and found electronics filtering their way into the mix. Without a word, It’s Just Craig sets the tone of the album with the warble of “Intro”. From there things get truly started with the hush of “Go”. Building up into a great structure, “Go” has a kindness to it. Organs glisten in the distance on the fragile textures of “Alone” whose light melody adds to the song’s gorgeousness. A wonderful bloom of color defines the spaciousness of “Captain”. Infectious grooves take hold on the otherworldly origins of “Goodnight” with precise drum work giving the song a jazzy feeling. Hazy to its very core is the tragedy of “Leaving Now”. By far the highlight of the album comes with the closing impassioned “Thirty-Nine” where many layers of sound work together possessing a poetic quality.

  4. Andrew, if what you report is true, then it certainly is newsworthy. If what you report is false, then it certainly is newsworthy. Any journalists reading along??? And that same Coordinator blew me up real good as well, even destroying evidence to get the ordered wetwork done. There is a story here, if any have the moxie to go for it. Search ADA here for just some of my experiences with the court's junk yard dog. https://www.scribd.com/document/299040062/Brown-ind-Bar-memo-Pet-cert Yep, drive by shootings. The lawyers of the Old Dominion got that right. Career executions lacking any real semblance of due process. It is the ISC way ... under the bad shepard's leadership ... and a compliant, silent, boot-licking fifth estate.

  5. Journalism may just be asleep. I pray this editorial is more than just a passing toss and turn. Indiana's old boy system of ruling over attorneys is cultish. Unmask them oh guardians of democracy.

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