Last August, the Indiana Court of Appeals, in a two-to-one ruling, denied the request of a transgender teen's ("H.S.") to have his birth certificate's gender marker changed from female to male.
A trial court judge in Allen County also previously ruled that there was not enough evidence that this change was warranted, though both courts ruled that a name change could be done. These rulings came despite the fact that both parents also approved of the gender-marker change.
According to the case summary published by the Indiana Office of Court Services, the mother ("L.S.") petitioned the trial court to have the name and gender marker changed pursuant to two Indiana laws that allow for this to take place.
Indiana Legal Services, who represented the transgender teen and his parents, argued that there was enough evidence presented in the trial court case to proceed with the gender marker change.
In the appeals court ruling, Judge L. Mark Bailey noted that "the Legislature has not spoken" to situations like those involving the minor and their family. He also said that medical evidence and testimony in support of the transition should have been offered by the plaintiffs.
"Clearly, the totality of the child's medical history is highly relevant," Bailey continued. "But here the parents decided to forego expert testimony or the proffer of any relevant medical records, in favor of their conclusory testimony prompted by their teenager's relatively recent disclosure. I acknowledge that neither expert medical testimony nor medical records is a statutory prerequisite for a gender maker change.
"However, as a practical matter, it could be crucial to the trial court's decision-making process where a child is involved … Indeed; the trial court aptly pointed out that there was no authenticated document of any sort admitted into evidence. Under these circumstances, I cannot say that the trial court misapplied the law."
The dissenting Appeals Court Judge Terry Crone, however, said that the parent's approval of the gender marker change should have been sufficient, adding that the trial court was overly "dismissive of fifteen year old H.S.'s age."
Crone noted, "Recent history offers plenty of unfortunate examples of legal, governmental, and social intolerance (including violence) toward transgender persons. In fact, Mother testified that she withdrew H.S. from the local public school because of bullying based on his 'position as a transgender student[.]' I cannot fault Mother and Father for being concerned about the difficulties and indignities that might arise when H.S. is required to present (or revise) identification documents that do not reflect his gender. In sum, the trial court was wrong to disregard the wishes of H.S.'s parents as they relate to his best interests …. Judge Bailey deems the parents' testimony 'conclusory,' but I respectfully disagree. We must review the trial court's ruling based on the record before us, and I believe that the record is more than sufficient to support the granting of Mother's petition to change the gender marker on H.S.'s birth certificate. Consequently, I would reverse and remand with instructions to grant the requested relief, as the failure to do so was a blatant abuse of the trial court's discretion."
When Windy City Times reached out to the transgender teen's lawyers at Indiana Legal Services and his parents, they declined to comment on the record.