Parents of an Ohio transgender teen seeking to legally change his name are appealing a federal judge’s ruling blocking the request.
Leigh and Kylen Whitaker filed the appeal on Tuesday, after Judge Joseph Kirby denied their attempts to have their 15-year-old son’s name changed to Elliott, upon his request.
Elliot’s mother, Leigh, told WKRC the family thought it was “just a formality, basically.”
Their son came out to them a year ago, 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.
Other parents in their support group led them to believe the hearing would be a simple process, simply done to make sure the name change wasn’t being requested for fraudulent reasons.
But then the judge’s questions began to give them pause.
“He started out by asking us, ‘Did this all start when all of this stuff came out in the media?’” Leigh said.
She said they didn’t know what he was talking about, but that later on Kirby clarified that he was referring to Caitlyn Jenner coming out as transgender.
In his ruling, Kirby undermined Elliot’s ability to make such a determination about his own gender identity, writing, “Children change significantly and rapidly.”
“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.” said Elliot’s father.
“There are federal constitutional issues here,” said attorney Josh Langdon, who represented the Whitakers. “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.”
Landon noted that, while Kirby had granted other name changes last year, he also denied two other requests for name changes involving transgender people on the same day as he denied the Whitakers’ request.
The case will now go before the 12th Circuit Court of Appeals.
A local news reports follow.