Fort Worth trans inmate sues Texas over law that prevents her from changing legal name

From The Fort Worth Star Telegram:

By Kaley Johnson and Tessa Weinberg
December 06, 2019

Fort Worth

Three transgender inmates, including one from Carswell Prison in Fort Worth, are arguing that a Texas law that prohibits them from legally changing their names is unconstitutional.

The women are suing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton in a lawsuit filed in the Austin division of district court Wednesday. They, and their attorneys, argue the inability to legally change their names to reflect their gender is cruel and unusual punishment.

Abbott and Paxton’s offices did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday night.

Texas Family Code 45.103 prohibits a person with a felony conviction from changing their name within two years of serving their sentence. Those in the lawsuit want the state to declare the provision unconstitutional and allow the women — Donna Langan at FMC Carswell, Teresa De Barbarac at FCI Texarkana and Alexandra Carson, who was recently released from prison — to change their names to reflect their gender.

Attorney Brian McGiverin said denying trans people the right to change their name increases their risk of suicide or being the assault victims, and makes everything from employment to housing more difficult. Forcing trans inmates to be more vulnerable to these risks violates the Eighth Amendment, McGiverin said.

Emmett Schelling, the executive director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas, known as TENT, said that barring transgender inmates from changing their names until two years after leaving prison or completing parole is enforcing “one of the most cruel punishments that you can give to a trans person,” after they’ve already served their sentence.

“I’ve already got a big strike against me because I have to reveal my criminal background,” Schelling said of transgender people who are former inmates seeking employment. “And so then on top of it, you’re basically forcing people to be in a situation where they’re showing an ID that doesn’t match who they are.”

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