NewsPublic Affairs / September 13, 2016

Transgender Immigrant Sues Indiana Over Name-Change Law

Transgender Immigrant Sues Indiana Over Name-Change Law

INDIANAPOLIS -- A transgender Mexican immigrant wants a federal court to strike down an Indiana law barring him from changing his name because he’s not a U.S. citizen.

A lawsuit filed Tuesday by the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund alleges that a 2010 state law requiring proof of citizenship to obtain a change of legal name is unconstitutional.

The plaintiff, known as "John Doe" is a Mexican immigrant who was granted asylum in the U.S. He is withholding his name out of privacy concerns. Doe's female birth name is still on his Indiana ID, and he says that leads to frustration and fear for his family and himself.

“I was pulled over while driving. The officer asked for my ID and then refused to believe it was mine. He said I was playing games and that he would arrest me unless I showed him my real ID. I was terrified. Finally my wife was able to calm him down and explain the situation. Pointing to me, the officer told her, ‘Take it or her or she or whatever it is away,’" he said.

MALDEF attorneys argue the law discriminates against people based on their citizenship and that there’s no legitimate reason for it. They add Indiana’s law is the only one of its kind they can find. 

Attorney Matthew Barragan says Indiana’s law violates Doe’s constitutional right not to disclose personal, private information.

“Transgender immigrants essentially out themselves as trans every time they show their IDs if that ID shows the name they were assigned at birth," Barragan said. "This makes them extremely vulnerable to hostility, discrimination and even violence.”

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