Transgender man wins appeal after judge denies gender-marker change

A transgender man who was granted a name change but denied his petition for a gender-marker change won on appeal Tuesday, with the Indiana Court of Appeals finding the trial court lacked sufficient cause to deny the petition.

Dawson Clemmer, formerly Catherine Clemmer, petitioned the Hancock Superior Court in January for a name change and a gender-marker change. After a hearing in April, Judge Terry Snow took the matter under advisement pending resubmission because the trial court concluded the proposed order was incomplete.

After the order was resubmitted, the court granted the name change but not the gender marker.

“On April 29, Clemmer moved for a final order regarding his petition for a gender-marker change and submitted a third proposed order. That same day, the trial court denied Clemmer’s motion, stating, ‘The court did not rule on gender change because the petitioner did not include that in the proposed order. Motion for gender marker change is denied.’”

The was erroneous, the COA ruled in a four-page memorandum decision Tuesday.

“This court provided guidance for trial courts to issue orders requiring the Indiana State Department of Health to change an individual’s gender marker on his birth certificate in In re Petition for Change of Birth Certificate, 22 N.E.3d 707 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014),” Judge Cale Bradford wrote for the panel. “In doing so, we concluded that Indiana Code section 16-37-2-10 gives authority to grant petitions for gender-marker change.

“… In discussing what evidence was required to support a petition for gender-marker change, we concluded that the ‘ultimate focus should be on whether the petition is made in good faith and not for a fraudulent or unlawful purpose.’ … Here, the record contains no evidence to suggest that Clemmer’s petition was for fraudulent or unlawful purposes. In fact, Clemmer testified that he was not seeking a name change to defraud creditors or for fraudulent purposes. Clemmer also averred that he was seeking a gender-marker change in order to accurately reflect his gender identity and presentation. We conclude that Clemmer’s petition was made in good faith and should not have been denied because of formatting errors on a proposed order.”

The panel reversed and remanded, instructing the trial court to grant Clemmer’s petition within 30 days of certification of the appellate opinion. The case is In re the Name Change of Catherine Clemmer, Dawson Clemmer (formerly Catherine Clemmer) (mem. dec.), 19A-MI-1221.

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