The parents of a transgender teen are furious after an Ohio judge denied their request to legally change their son’s name.
Leigh and Kylen Whitaker had filed the request to change their son’s name from Heidi to Elliott. Last month, however, Judge Joseph Kirby flatly threw out their case. The couple has now launched an appeal against the ruling.
“We thought it was just a formality, basically,” said Leigh Whitaker, Elliott’s mother, of the recent court hearing, as reported by WKRC-TV.
The parents expected some basic formalities, and maybe a few simple questions from the judge, but instead they were met with a quiz about the effect of the transgender movement in popular media, and how that related to their son.
“He started out by asking us did this all start when all of this stuff came out in the media. And we didn’t know what he was talking about. And later on he clarified he was talking about when Bruce Jenner came out,” Leigh explained.
The couple said their son had been attending the transgender clinic at Children’s Hospital Medical Center since he came out as transgender about a year ago.
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“We did do a lot of therapy to make sure that this was something that was real,” Leigh said, noting the importance of her child being able to change his name so that it appears as he would want it on school documents and his driving license.
Throughout his decision, Judge Kirby referred to him as “Heidi” and suggested that he (she) was confused, writing in part “children change significantly and rapidly.” He ruled that Elliott could request the name change again when he becomes a legal adult.
Kirby told the parents that their child must “Age. Develop. Mature” before he can issue another name-change request to the courts.
The Whitakers were outraged at his decision.
“The judge met with us for 15 to 20 minutes and then decided that he knew better than the parents and the doctors and our child. We just don’t feel that’s right,” Elliott’s father, Kylen Whitaker, told WKRC.
In addition, the couple’s attorney believes that the judge has violated the family’s constitutional rights.
“There are federal constitutional issues here,” said LGBTQ attorney Josh Langdon. “Importantly, the parents right to decide the upbringing of their child, there’s also the child’s right to express himself. There are First Amendment issues.”
Langdon noted that Judge Kirby had denied two other requests for name changes involving transgender people on the same day as the ruling for their case.
The case will now be referred to the 12th Circuit Court of Appeals.