7th Circuit Rules Transgender Asylee Cannot Sue Various Officials over Indiana’s Statutory Requirement of U.S. Citizenship to Get a Legal Change of Name

By Bryan Johnson-Xenitelis

Bryan Johnson-Xenitelis is a New York attorney addition and adjunct professor at New York Law School, where he teaches “Crime & Immigration.”

A transgender Mexican asylee’s suit against Indiana’s Governor, Attorney General, Executive Director of the Indiana Supreme Court Division of State Court Administration, and the Marion County Clerk of Court, alleging that Indiana’s name-change statute was unconstitutional because it “requires name-change petitioners to provide proof of U.S. citizenship” in violation of his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, has been dismissed for lack of standing in Doe v. Holcomb, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 5374, 2018 WL 1124031 (7th Cir., March 2, 2018).

Plaintiff brought suit against defendants in U.S. District Court and moved unopposed to proceed anonymously as “John Doe.” He sought an injunction to prevent the defendants from enforcing Indiana’s name-change statute’s requirement that a petitioner be a U.S. citizen, as Doe wished to change his name from “Jane” to “John” so that his name “conforms to his gender identity and physical appearance, which are male.” Chief U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson had dismissed Doe’s case against all defendants for lack of standing, and Doe appealed.

Writing for a majority of a panel, Circuit Judge Michael Stephen Kanne noted that even if a plaintiff can establish the elements of standing (injury-in-fact, causation, and redressability), the 11th Amendment generally immunizes a state or state officials from suit in federal court and can only be overcome if a plaintiff can “show that the named state official plays some role in enforcing the statute.”


For the full story, access the April 2018 issue of LGBT Law Notes