Ohio Judge Refuses to Allow Transgender Teens to Change Their Names: Lawsuit

Judge Joseph Kirby refuses to grant name changes to trans teens as part of a ‘pattern’ of ‘animosity’ toward trans individuals, a new lawsuit claims.


The mothers of three transgender teens filed a lawsuit last week claiming that Judge Joseph Kirby of Warren County, Ohio has shown “animosity” toward adolescents seeking name-change applications and a “pattern and practice” of refusing to grant their requests, which may violate their constitutional rights.

The 61-page lawsuit was filed Friday in Ohio federal court. Kirby is a probate and juvenile court judge for Warren County who earlier this summer denied a name-change request by 15-year-old Elliott Whitaker.

Kirby told Whitaker in late June, via a three-page written ruling, that he “lacks the age, maturity, knowledge, and stability to make this decision.” Kirby’s mother Stephanie Leigh Whitaker is one of the plaintiffs in Friday’s suit, and their family spoke to The Daily Beast last month about the case. The Whitakers said then that the document routinely misgendered Elliott, and it contained an uncommon level of detail about his testosterone treatments, his coming-out process, and other personal information.

Kirby told Elliott to “ask this Court again once you become an adult.”

Attorney Joshua Langdon told The Daily Beast last month that Kirby’s written decision is “absurd.” Langdon, an LGBT rights lawyer, is handling the family’s formal appeal in state district court.

“He’s holding [Elliot’s] identity hostage,” Langdon said. “Why would the government have more authority than both of the parents, and the doctors, and the actual child himself? That’s insane to me.”

But Elliott certainly isn’t the only teen suffering from Kirby’s refusals. Jennifer Saul, another plaintiff, is suing on behalf of her 15-year-old son James, and a third unidentified woman claims in the suit that her 17-year-old son is afraid Kirby will reject his petition as well.

According to the suit, all three teens have persistent gender dysphoria and are fully supported by their doctors. They are all receiving both therapy and medical treatment, the complaint states.

A review of 2018 name-change applications by the Warren County Common Pleas Court shows that Judge Kirby routinely treats name-change applications by adolescents “differently” than other name change applications, Friday’s complaint claims. In fact, the only name-change approval for a minor in Warren County this year was by a court magistrate.

“I just want to live a normal life,” Elliott told The Daily Beast last month. “Normal people don’t have to go through all of this just to have the name they want.”

Officials in Kirby’s office told The Daily Beast on Monday that Kirby was unable to comment on the case.