A woman who became female through gender-reassignment surgery has the right to change her name too, despite a trial court judge's ruling that suggested her new name was misleading, the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals ruled on Tuesday.
A three-judge panel ruled that Steven Charles Harvey did not attempt to deceive anyone by seeking legal recognition of her new name, Christie Ann Harvey. Oklahoma County District Judge Bill Graves, a former Republican lawmaker, earlier ruled against Harvey, ruling that gender-reassignment surgery didn't change Harvey's DNA.
"Petitioner has stipulated that his DNA cannot be changed to that of a female," Graves wrote in his ruling. "Thus, if a sex change cannot validly change one's sex from male to female or vice versa ... his purpose would be fraudulent."
But the panel ruled the lower court "abused its discretion" by denying the name-change application and ordered Graves to grant Harvey's change of name.
"The trial court's finding that Harvey sought a name change for an illegal or fraudulent purpose is not supported by the evidence," Judge Kenneth Buettner wrote in the unanimous opinion.
Neither Graves nor Harvey's attorney immediately returned telephone messages seeking comment.
The three-judge panel did not address whether the state should consider Harvey a man or a woman, only that it was wrong to reject the name change. "The law does not require traditionally male names, or females traditionally female names, by their parents at birth," the court wrote. "Additionally, there are numerous gender-androgynous names."
Harvey's case is the second in which Graves denied a name-change to an applicant who was in the process of gender-reassignment surgery. In a separate case, Graves rejected an application from a person seeking a name change from James Dean Ingram to Angela Renee Ingram.
In both cases, Graves cited passages from the Bible in his ruling.
In the Harvey case, Graves referenced a passage from the book of Genesis in which God created man and woman separately and then wrote: "The DNA code shows God meant for them to stay male and female."
Ingram's attorney, Brady Henderson, said it is unusual for a judge to use Scripture as the basis for a decision.
"The basic idea of seeing Scripture quoted isn't unheard of, simply because there is so much in Scripture that has entered the general culture," said Henderson, legal director for the Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. "What is shocking is to use it as the reason for making a decision."
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Graves represented a northwest Oklahoma City district in the Legislature for 24 years and was a fierce opponent of gay rights. In 2004, he filed a bill to deny recognition of same-sex marriage or civil unions and declare that such relationships "shall be considered repugnant to the public policy of the state."
After being forced from office because of term limits, Graves was replaced by current Republican state Rep. Sally Kern, who has described homosexuality as a greater threat to the United States than terrorism.