Ga. judge offended again by trans name change

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An Augusta judge who earlier this year said allowing a transgender man to change his name might offend the “sensibilities and mores” of Georgians has rejected a second request from a trans person. 

And like last time, Lambda Legal fired back at Superior Court Judge J. David Roper by appealing his decision to the Georgia Court of Appeals. Lambda said it took Roper just nine minutes during a June 2 hearing to deny a name change request from Andrew Baumert (photo), a 21-year-old transgender man from Augusta. In early June, Lambda appealed Roper's decision in the case of Rowan Feldhaus.

“The court should not be allowed to double down on discrimination and deny another transgender person the right to change their name,” Beth Littrell, a senior attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office in Atlanta, said in a prepared statement.

“When Andrew, Rowan and so many other transgender people go to the court to change their legal name, it is an important step towards validating who they are. There are only a few exceptions that allow a court to deny someone the right to change their name. Being transgender is not one of those exceptions. A name change is time-consuming and costly and should not be denied based on sexist notions or transgender bias,” Littrell added.

Baumert, who this year started graduate school at Georgia State and is conducting cancer research, holds two bachelor's degrees – one from Augusta University and another from Georgia Military College. Baumert was assigned a female gender at birth, but his gender identity is male, Lambda said. In January, he filed for a name change in Columbia County Superior Court. Roper is a judge in the Augusta Judicial Circuit, which includes Richmond, Columbia and Burke counties.

During the hearing in June, Roper told Baumert to pick a more “gender-neutral name,” according to Lambda. 

At the hearing on his petition, held on June 2, 2016, Andrew provided all the necessary information for a name change.  Andrew’s mother, father and grandmother went to the hearing with him and his mother testified to how Andrew did not “feel comfortable in his skin” prior to his transition and that he had a “team of doctors” who were treating him for gender dysphoria. After only nine minutes, the court denied Andrew’s request for a name change applying the same discriminatory “policy” as applied to Rowan, that “ [it] will not change a name from an obviously female to an obviously male name, and vice versa.”

Superior Court Judge J. David Roper said “my policy is to allow someone who claims to be transgendering [sic]  —and I’ve had them in various stages—my policy is to permit someone to change, in your case, from an obviously—what appears to me to be a female name to something that is gender–neutral.” In denying Andrew’s petition, the court suggested several names “I can live with,” including Morgan, Shannon, Shaun and Jaimie. Roper said that for Andrew to have a name that matches his gender identity would “confuse or mislead the general public.” 

Baumert described the hearing as “humiliating.”

“It was humiliating and insulting to be told by the court that I would not be able to change my name legally when I’m already known as Andrew by my family, my friends, and my community,” Baumert said in a prepared statement.

“I work in labs all day, but it doesn’t take a scientist to know that this judge’s ruling was based on sexist opinions about ‘appropriate’ names. It’s hurtful to think about how many people were targets of the judge’s policy, like Rowan and me, simply because we are transgender. I just want my name to reflect who I am,” he added.

Lambda Legal is being assisted in the appeal by attorneys from King & Spalding.


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