Ohio family says judge violated transgender son’s rights by denying name-change request

State News

A family in southwest Ohio says a judge violated their transgender son’s civil rights when he denied the teen’s request to legally change his name and now they’re appealing the decision.

Leigh and Kylen Whitaker went to Warren County Probate Court Tuesday morning to file an appeal against a decision by Judge Joseph Kirby. Last month, Kirby denied a request from the Whitakers to change their son’s name from Heidi to Elliott.

“We thought it was just a formality, basically,” Leigh Whitaker told WKRC.

The family says they were taken aback by some of Kirby’s questions during the hearing.

“He started out by asking us, ‘Did this all start when all of this stuff came out in the media?’” Leigh said. “And we didn’t know what he was talking about and later on, he clarified he was talking about when Bruce Jenner came out [as transgender].”

Elliott, 15, has been seeing a therapist for a year and has been seeing a specialist at the transgender clinic at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

“We did do a lot of therapy to make sure that this was something that was real,” Leigh said.

But Kirby wasn’t convinced that Elliott truly wanted to change his name.

“Children change significantly and rapidly,” Kirby wrote in his decision. WKRC reports Kirby also told Elliott to ask for the name change again when he becomes an adult.

Kirby’s decision shocked Elliott and his parents.

“I’m also upset that a judge who spent less than 20 minutes with our child in an intimidating setting knows better than both parents, the child, a licensed therapist and a doctor specializing in transgender issues,” Leigh said.

JoshLangdon, the Whitaker’s attorney, said that Kirby crossed a line with this decision and denied two other name change requests for transgender individuals that same day.

“There are federal constitutional issues here, importantly, the parents’ right to decide the upbringing of their child,” Langdon said. “There’s also the child’s right to express himself, there are First Amendment issues.”

According to WKRC, Kirby has approved other name-change requests in the past.

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