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In re Name Change of K.H.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

June 21, 2019

In the Matter of the Name Change of K.H., K.H., Appellant-Petitioner.

          Appeal from the Hamilton Circuit Court The Honorable Paul A. Felix, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 29C01-1808-MI-7453

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Michael R. Limrick Hoover Hull Turner LLP Indianapolis, Indiana Megan Stuart Indiana Legal Services, Inc. Bloomington, Indiana

          BAKER, JUDGE.

         [¶1] K.H. is a transgender woman who seeks to change her name and gender marker. She filed requests to waive publication and seal the record pursuant to Indiana Administrative Rule 9. The trial court directed her to publish notice of the Rule 9 hearing in a newspaper and to notify the Indiana Attorney General. While the trial court did not require her to include her name, it required her to include her cause number, date and time of hearing, and the fact that she desired to change her name from a traditionally male name to a traditionally female one. We find that these directives were erroneous. We also find that the record supports K.H.'s Administrative Rule 9 requests. We therefore reverse and remand with instructions that this case shall remain sealed and for further proceedings.

         Facts

         [¶2] K.H. was assigned male at birth but identifies as female. On August 14, 2018, K.H. filed a verified petition to change her name and gender marker; a verified request for waiver of publication; a verified request to seal the record pursuant to Administrative Rule 9; and an affidavit supporting her requests to waive publication and seal the record.[1] The next day, the trial court ordered the case sealed temporarily and set the matter for a hearing.

         [¶3] In advance of that hearing, the trial court ordered K.H. to do two things. First, it ordered her to publish notice of her desire for a name change. While it did not require her to include her name, it required the notice to state that "[t]he Petitioner desires to change the Petitioner's own name from a name commonly used by males to a name more commonly used by females" and to include the cause number and date and time of the hearing so that objectors could be present. Appellant's App. Vol. II p. 16. Second, it ordered her to give notice of the hearing to the Indiana Attorney General.

         [¶4] On September 14, 2018, K.H. filed a motion asking the trial court to reconsider its demands that she publish notice and notify the Attorney General of her requests to waive publication and seal the record. The trial court denied the motion because the public "should be given a general idea as to why the petitioner is seeking to exclude the records from public access" and because the Attorney General should be able to "make a determination whether to ask to intervene." Id. at 29.

         [¶5] On November 7, 2018, K.H. submitted a supplemental affidavit supporting her Rule 9 request. Among other things, she attested as follows:

• Publishing notice and notifying the Attorney General "will cause me to suffer the immediate and irreparable harm that I understood was to be prevented by my request to maintain the confidentiality of my requests to change my name and gender."
• The notice required by the trial court "would be an invitation to the public to come to the Court and offer their opposition to my very existence as a trans woman . . . . I understand the Court's order does not require me to specifically say that I am changing my gender, but that is the reasonable presumption that would be made by someone reading language that I intend to change my name from one commonly associated with males to one commonly associated with females."
• "All of this puts a huge target on my back for people who dislike and hate transgender people. I do not believe that I can comply with the Court's notice requirements without being subjected to all forms of transphobic persecution."
• "I am also worried that my family and loved ones will also be targeted and terrorized because of who I am."
• "Publishing a notice that tells people I am trans and inviting them to the hearing would give power to the community to dictate my life. No one has the right to dictate anyone's life, especially when they are just trying to live their best life and be happy. This is my life. This is who I am."
• "All I am trying to do is overcome obstacles and the challenges of being accepted as my ...

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