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Transgender Indiana resident files lawsuit against Republican nominee Mike Pence

Donald Trump's VP pick is being sued over a name-change law.


Mary Emily O'Hara


Posted on Sep 13, 2016   Updated on May 26, 2021, 12:52 am CDT

Republican Vice Presidential nominee and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is named in a lawsuit filed Tuesday on behalf of a transgender Indiana resident. 

Changing the gender on your identity documents as an Indiana resident requires that a physician write a letter stating that you’ve had “appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition.”

But changing your name is another story. In the state of Indiana—according to the Indiana Transgender Network—you must be a full American citizen, be over 17 years old, have no felony convictions, not be currently in jail, not be fleeing creditors, or not be a registered sex offender.

For the transgender man listed as “John Doe” in Tuesday’s lawsuit, the first requirement was impossible. Doe is a legal resident of the United States, but not a citizen—he was born in Mexico and moved to Indiana at age 6. A 2010 state law passed under Pence’s rule mandates that only a U.S. citizen may change his or her name.

Until that law is changed, Doe—who underwent hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgery starting in 2011—has to live with an ID that shows a photo of a man, a male gender marker, and a female-sounding name.

“Without a legal name change,” Doe said in a press release emailed to the Daily Dot, “I am forced to use an ID that is inconsistent with who I am and puts me in danger of harassment, violence, and being outed as transgender whenever I present it. I am simply asking for equal treatment under the law.”

The lawsuit was brought on his behalf by the Transgender Law Center and MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund). Pence is the primary defendant listed on the complaint, but Indiana Attorney General Gregory Zoeller and Marion County Court Clerk Myla A. Eldridge are also listed. 

The suit alleges that Pence and other Indiana officials violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause that state immigrant residents can’t be treated differently from citizens. It also stresses that the law puts transgender immigrants in danger by forcing them to live with documents that out them every time they are shown.

“Everyone should be able to live as their authentic selves no matter their gender identity or immigration status,” said Kris Hayashi, executive director of Transgender Law Center, in the press release. “Transgender immigrants already experience disproportionate violence without the government further jeopardizing their safety and privacy with this unnecessary and discriminatory rule.”

Doe was granted legal resident status in 2013 by Homeland Security as part of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and married a U.S. citizen the next year. The couple have a baby that was born this July.

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*First Published: Sep 13, 2016, 5:33 pm CDT