Sunday 10 July 2022

Wisconsin Court Rules Against Transgender Sex Offender In Name-Change Case

 A Wisconsin court ruled Thursday that a transgender sex offender could not legally get a name change because it is illegal for sex offenders to change their names. 

In a 4-3 decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court said that Ella, a 22-year-old 6’5’’ biological man who identifies as a woman, could not get a name change due to Ella’s status on the state’s sex offender registry.  

The sex offender was only referred to as “Ella” in court documents. The original legal name was not available because the incident involved juveniles. 

Court documents showed that a 15-year-old Ella was convicted of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old autistic boy who was blind in one eye. This led to Ella’s placement on the sex offender list. Ella, who was over 200 pounds heavier than the victim, also bullied the victim on Facebook after the assault.

The teenage boy experienced further “victimization and traumatization” due to Ella’s additional bullying, court documents demonstrated, according to the Associated Press

Ella’s lawyers claimed that the name change denial constituted “cruel and unusual punishment” and that it was a violation of the First Amendment’s protection of free speech. The court’s four conservative leaning justices, however, were unpersuaded.

“Consistent with well established precedent, we hold Ella’s placement on the sex offender registry is not a ‘punishment’ under the Eighth Amendment,” Justice Rebecca Bradley said in her majority decision.  

“Even if it were, sex offender registration is neither cruel nor unusual. We further hold Ella’s right to free speech does not encompass the power to compel the State to facilitate a change of her legal name,” she added. 

Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Annette Ziegler and Justice Patience Roggensack signed on to Bradley’s decision.

Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote a separate concurrence referring to the sex offender as “C.G”  because he disagreed with the other justices decision to use female pronouns for the plaintiff. 

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley wrote the dissent, saying that the name change denial would “expose” Ella to “discrimination and abuse.”

“Requiring Ella to maintain a name that is inconsistent with her gender identity and forcing her to out herself every time she presents official documents exposes her to discrimination and abuse,” she wrote. 

She was joined by Justice Rebecca Dallett and Justice Jill Karofsky. 

Justice Rebecca Bradley, though, said the decision did not prevent Ella from living as a transgender person. 

“For example, nothing prohibits her from dressing in women’s clothing, wearing make-up, growing out her hair, or using a feminine alias,”she said. “The State has not branded Ella with her legal name, and when Ella presents a government-issued identification card, she is free to say nothing at all or to say, ‘I go by Ella.’”

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