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Doe v. Pence

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 13, 2017

JOHN DOE, formerly known as JANE DOE, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL PENCE, in his official capacity as Governor of the State of Indiana, GREGORY ZOELLER, in his official capacity as Attorney General for the State of Indiana, MYLA A. ELDRIDGE, in her official capacity as Marion County Clerk of the Court, LILIA G. JUDSON, in her official capacity as Executive Director of the Indiana Supreme Court Division of State Court Administration, Defendants.

          ORDER

          Hon. Jane Magntts-Stinson, Chief Judge United States District Court

         Plaintiff John Doe, whose legal name is “Jane Doe”, is a transgender man who resides in Marion County, Indiana.[1] He is originally from Mexico and has been granted asylum here in the United States. He seeks to legally change his name from Jane to John, so that his name conforms with his gender identity and physical presentation, which is male. Mr. Doe asserts that the Indiana statute governing name changes unconstitutionally prevents him from changing his name because it requires petitioners to provide proof of United States citizenship, which Mr. Doe, as an asylee, does not have.

         Mr. Doe has brought suit against Defendants Governor Mike Pence (“Governor Pence”), Attorney General Gregory Zoeller (“Attorney General Zoeller”), Marion County Clerk of Court Myla Eldridge (“Clerk Eldridge”), and the Executive Director of the Indiana Supreme Court Division of State Court Administration, Lilia Judson (“Director Judson”). Mr. Doe raises claims under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and under the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Presently pending before the Court are Defendants' Motions to Dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. [Filing No. 40; Filing No. 52.] For the reasons that follow, the Court grants the Defendants' Motions to Dismiss.

         I.

         Background

         Mr. Doe, whose legal name is “Jane Doe”, is a 31-year old Latino who resides in Marion County, Indiana. [Filing No. 24 at 1.] Mr. Doe's family moved to Indiana from Mexico in 1990, and he has lived in Indiana since that time. [Filing No. 24 at 7.] Mr. Doe is transgender. [Filing No. 24 at 1.] This means that Mr. Doe was assigned the sex of female at birth, but his gender identity (his deeply felt understanding of his own gender) is male. [Filing No. 24 at 4-5.] The United States granted Mr. Doe asylum in 2015, finding that he risked facing persecution on account of his transgender status if he returned to Mexico. [Filing No. 24 at 7.] Mr. Doe was eligible to apply for permanent residency in September 2016. [Filing No. 24 at 7.]

         Mr. Doe has been under the care of a licensed mental health clinician since 2010. [Filing No. 24 at 7.] She diagnosed Mr. Doe with Gender Dysphoria, a condition that is characterized by clinically significant distress that can result when a person's gender identity differs from the person's assumed gender (or assigned sex) at birth. [Filing No. 24 at 5-7.] Under the care of his clinician, Mr. Doe has been on hormone therapy since 2011, which has deepened Mr. Doe's voice, increased his growth of facial hair, and given him a more masculine appearance. [Filing No. 24 at 8.] Mr. Doe has also undergone gender-affirming surgery. [Filing No. 24 at 8.]

         He is recognized on all of his official U.S. documents, including his Indiana State ID and his immigration documents, as male. [Filing No. 24 at 8.] But his legal name remains a traditionally female name. [Filing No. 24 at 8.] Mr. Doe is not recognized by others as transgender unless he tells them, or unless they see his ID, which identifies him by his legal, female name. [Filing No. 24 at 8.] Mr. Doe has experienced negative reactions and harassment on multiple occasions when he has presented his ID, because his female name does not match his male gender identity and expression. [Filing No. 24 at 9.] On one occasion, a police officer threatened to take him to jail because he did not believe that Mr. Doe was the individual identified in the Id. [Filing No. 24 at 9.] Others have ridiculed or harassed him. [Filing No. 24 at 9-10.] Mr. Doe is also afraid of being physically attacked because of being forced to reveal his transgender status. [Filing No. 24 at 11.]

         Mr. Doe seeks to legally change his name, but he believes that he is barred from doing so by Indiana Code Section 34-28-2-2.5, the statute governing petitions for name changes in Indiana. [Filing No. 24 at 11.] That statute became effective in July 2010, and it states that a name-change petition must include, among other things, “[p]roof that the person is a United States citizen.” I.C. § 34-28-2-2.5.[2]

         In December 2013, Mr. Doe appeared in person at the Marion County Clerk's Office to inquire about petitioning for a change of legal name. [Filing No. 24 at 12.] When Mr. Doe requested name-change forms, he was told by employees of the Clerk's Office that U.S. citizenship was a legal requirement to change his name, and that “[i]f you do become a citizen, then we would have no problem changing your name.” [Filing No. 24 at 12.] An employee also told him that another non-citizen had attempted to change a legal name and that the change was rejected by a judge. [Filing No. 24 at 13.] He was also given an informational packet about name changes, including forms prepared by the Indiana Supreme Court Division of State Court Administration, which listed the citizenship requirement. [Filing No. 24 at 12-13.] Mr. Doe has not submitted a petition for legal name change. [Filing No. 52-2 at 6.]

         Mr. Doe challenges the name-change statute as unconstitutional, alleging that it violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

         II.

         Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) “allows a party to dismiss a claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.” Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police of Chicago Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009). The burden is on the plaintiff to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that subject-matter jurisdiction exists for his or her claims. See Lee v. City of Chicago, 330 F.3d 456, 468 (7th Cir. 2003).

         Article III of the Constitution grants federal courts jurisdiction over “cases and controversies[, ]” and the standing doctrine is the tool used to identify which cases and controversies the federal judicial process can appropriately resolve. Whitmore v. Arkansas, 495 U.S. 149, 154-55 (1990). Standing is “the threshold question in every federal case, determining the power of the court to entertain the suit.” Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498 (1975). “[T]he ‘irreducible constitutional minimum' of standing consists of three elements. The plaintiff must have (1) suffered an injury in fact, (2) that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct of the defendant, and (3) that is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision.” Spokeo, Inc. v. Robbins, 136 S.Ct. 1540, 1547 (2016) (internal citations omitted).

         This Court's jurisdiction depends on “an actual controversy [that] must be extant at all stages of review, not merely at the time the complaint is filed.” Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43, 67 (1997). Thus, if the controversy defined by a legal claim is no longer live, or the parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the outcome, the claim is moot, and the court must dismiss for want of jurisdiction. See City of Erie v. Pap's A.M., 529 U.S. 277, 287 (2000); North Carolina v. Rice, 404 U.S. 244, 246 (1971) (per curiam) (“Mootness is a jurisdictional question because the Court ‘is not empowered to decide moot questions or abstract propositions, ' ... our impotence ‘to review moot cases derives from the requirement of Article III of the Constitution under which the exercise of judicial power depends upon the existence of a case or controversy.'”) (internal citations omitted).

         III.

         Discussion

         The Defendants have moved to dismiss Mr. Doe's Complaint under Rule 12(b)(1), arguing that Mr. Doe lacks standing to bring the lawsuit.[3][Filing No. 40;Filing No. 52.] Governor Pence, Attorney General Zoeller, and Director Judson (collectively the “Joint Defendants”) argue that Mr. Doe has not established that he has standing because (1) he has not shown that he suffered an injury-in-fact; (2) any injury that he has suffered was not caused by the Joint Defendants; and (3) regarding ...


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