September 27, 2012 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Ryan Kiesel, Executive Director, ACLU of OK, 405.524.8511, firstname.lastname@example.org
Today the ACLU of Oklahoma filed an appeal with the Oklahoma Supreme Court on behalf of its client Angela Ingram seeking to overturn an Oklahoma County Judge’s decision denying Angela’s application to change her legally recognized name from James Dean Ingram to Angela Renee Ingram. Angela lives as a woman, and is seeking to change her legal name to match her identity.
Prior to denying Angela’s request to change her name, Judge Graves had denied another application for a name change because that applicant, like Angela, did not conform to his narrow concept of gender identity.
“A person’s name is a fundamental part of their identity, and it is indefensible for a judge to rob someone of their legal right choose their own name,” said Ryan Kiesel, Executive Director of the ACLU of Oklahoma. “Judge Graves’s persistent imposition of his own value system in place of the law and his denial of our client’s right to have the name of her choice is an injustice we are determined to right.” The ACLU’s appeal urges the Oklahoma Supreme Court to reverse the decision of Judge Graves to deny Ingram’s name change even though it was not sought for any improper purpose.
“Oklahoma law guarantees any person the right to change his or her name, so long as the change is not part of fraudulent or illegal activity, such as a fugitive attempting to evade capture by law enforcement,” said Brady Henderson, Legal Director of the ACLU of Oklahoma. “Judge Graves chose to disregard Oklahoma law and basic constitutional principles of free speech and equal protection. His decision represents a shocking and dangerous attempt to radically expand governmental control over citizens’ most personal choices.”
The ACLU’s appeal also calls attention to the important constitutional rights placed at risk by Judge Graves’s decision.
“Choice of a name, whether it be the choice of an individual seeking to change his or her own, or parents’ choice of what to name their newborn baby, is a right protected by the First Amendment,” said Kiesel. “We the people, and not some government official, get to choose our names and those of our children.”
The appeal, filed today, will be decided by the Justices of the Oklahoma Supreme Court or referred to the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals for a decision. Either court will have the option of reversing Judge Graves’s decision outright, or of remanding the case to give Judge Graves another opportunity to apply the law properly. It is likely that the appeal may take several months to be decided--months in which Ingram will continue to place life on hold, waiting for what other citizens can take for granted.
Out of respect for our client’s privacy, the ACLU of Oklahoma requests that all media inquires and/or requests for interviews be directed to her attorneys at the ACLU of Oklahoma.