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In re Name Change of M.E.B.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

June 21, 2019

In the Matter of the Name Change of M.E.B., M.E.B., Appellant-Petitioner.

          Appeal from the Orange Circuit Court The Honorable Steven L. Owen, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 59C01-1809-MI-272

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

          BAKER, JUDGE.

         [¶1] M.B. 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 found that she did not meet her burden under Rule 9. We disagree. Therefore, we reverse and remand with instructions that this case shall remain sealed and for further proceedings.

         Facts

         [¶2] M.B. was assigned male at birth but identifies as female. On September 24, 2018, M.B. filed a verified petition for change of name and gender marker and a verified written request to prohibit public access pursuant to Administrative Rule 9, asking the trial court to waive the publication requirement and seal the record.

         [¶3] In support of her request to prohibit public access, M.B. attested as follows: "I am aware of the high rates of violence, discrimination, and invasion of privacy against transgender people in Indiana and nationwide[.] I fear that if the public knows I am transgender, I will personally experience violence, discrimination, and an invasion of my privacy." Appellant's App. Vol. II p. 14. M.B. also included data about "the high rates of violence, discrimination, [] invasion of privacy," and harassment both nationwide and in Indiana. Id. at 14-16. She also noted that she feared for her safety

because of my personal experience with violence and discrimination in my community. I know of a man in Orange County who has outspoken anti-trans views and has said that if he finds out about a trans person, he will kill them. I have also faced discrimination from pharmacists when they discovered my gender identity.

Id. at 16.

         [¶4] On November 19, 2018, the trial court held a hearing on M.B.'s request to prohibit public access. M.B. testified at the hearing. Among other things, she explained her fears to the trial court:

• "I believe it would be dangerous [if people learned that she was changing her name and gender marker]. There's lots of people, both within the United States and within the State of Indiana that would like to harm transgender people and there are some in Orange County that I do know of that it would be dangerous for me and I could get killed." Tr. Vol. II p. 8.
• "I have [personally faced discrimination based on gender identity] when picking up my prescriptions at the Paoli Walmart pharmacy one of the ladies that works there didn't want to serve me and I had to get someone else to help me." Id. at 9.
• ". . . I'm on Facebook quite a bit and there's someone who lives in Paoli, they have a red truck and they said if they knew someone was transgender and they saw them they would shoot them." Id.

         Following the hearing, M.B. filed a supplemental memorandum regarding the request to prohibit public access.

         [¶5] On December 4, 2018, the trial court denied M.B.'s request to prohibit public access. Among other ...


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