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Nov 29 2012

Appeals Court Reverses Bible-Based Decision

An appeals court in Oklahoma has reversed a lower court judge’s ruling denying a transgender woman the right to legally change her name because, in essence, the Bible says so. You can read the full appeals court ruling here and a news report on the ruling here.

More than 16 months after asking for a name change, Steven Charles Harvey will be allowed to switch to Christie Ann Harvey.

Ruling in a transgender case, the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals on Tuesday ordered a judge to grant the name change…

The appeals court ruled Oklahoma County District Judge Bill Graves was wrong to deny the name change last year…

Graves, a former Republican legislator, denied the request.

The judge wrote that a person cannot actually change one’s sex through surgery because the DNA stays the same.
“To grant a name change in this case would be to assist that which is fraudulent,” Graves wrote. “It is notable that Genesis 1:27-28 states: ‘So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.’ The DNA code shows God meant for them to stay male and female.”

The name Bill Graves may be familiar to you. It certainly is to me. Graves was the attorney that defended the Little Axe school district in the 1981 suit by Joann Bell over one of the most blatant establishment clause violations I’ve ever seen. That case will be an entire chapter in my book. It’s the most appalling case of abuse against a church/state plaintiff I’ve ever seen. Graves, by the way, is a Christian Reconstructionist. He actually called RJ Rushdoony as an expert witness in that case.

32 comments

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  1. 1
    otrame

    I have to say that I am really looking forward to your book. How is it coming? (*she says while finding yet another excuse to not be working on a report for the consulting job she has)

  2. 2
    Eamon Knight

    This is interesting to me* as an example of the Fallacy of Genetic Essentialism (I may or may not be the first to use the term), ie. the idea that your DNA defines “you”. It’s the same principle used by anti-choicers to confer inviolate personhood on embryos. I blame superficial pop-science treatments of genetics, combined with a natural human tendency to think in essentialist terms.

    * I mean in addition to the civil rights, and judicial abuse thereof, issue.

  3. 3
    eric

    “…The DNA code shows God meant for them to stay male and female.”

    WTF does DNA have to do with name changing? Last I checked, lots of married people were changing their names without sci-fi DNA recombination surgery.

    Seem like he had to reach down to the muddy bottom of the excuse barrel for THAT defense of his bigotry.

  4. 4
    baal

    Bible quotes are not law in the U.S. despite the endless urges of the christians for that to be true (These are the same people who are writing laws against using sharia? It boggles the mind).

  5. 5
    Chiroptera

    “…The DNA code shows God meant for them to stay male and female.”

    So such a name change was acceptable before DNA was discovered? I doubt a 1940 Graves would have thought so.

    Had the mechanism of inheritance been something completely different from DNA, then there would have been no problem with such a name change? I doubt that alternate-world Graves would think so.

    This is like claiming that abortion is murder because human fetuses have human DNA — I don’t think those who make these arguments really understand what they are trying to say with it.

  6. 6
    pacal

    Why the hell would anyone care about Steven changing her name to Christie. She, formally a he, is an adult and baring some real compelling reason is perfectly entitled to change her name to anything she wants.

  7. 7
    Eamon Knight

    By my reading, the judge seems to be conflating the name change with the sex change with the DNA thing. Mr-cum-Ms Harvey has XY chromosomes, ergo he’s a man, ergo he can’t possibly be “Christie” because that’s a *girl’s* name. And as everyone knows, girls have cooties.

    Some people never really get past grade 4.

  8. 8
    DaveL

    Of course, the appeals judge didn’t actually comment on Graves’ use of the Bible in his ruling. He simply noted that the statute says the name change shall be granted unless it is being sought for an unlawful or fraudulent purpose, or the petitioner misrepresented a material fact. Since it is not fraud to live as a gender not reflected by your sex chromosomes, the petitioner was entitled to a name change under the law. By reversing based on this, the appeals judge avoided engaging the First Amendment issues of the trial judge’s ruling.

    Although I understand, I must admit to being disappointed. I seem to have developed a taste for the sort of sarcastic, scathing-yet-restrained rebukes that wingnuts have developed a habit of earning. I find they’re one of the few instances of genuine entertainment one gets from reading court rulings.

  9. 9
    F [is for failure to emerge]

    I wonder what he would think about a person whose sex chromosomes were different than average? Or, what if sex (never mind gender, which isn’t) was not determined by chromosomes?

  10. 10
    slc1

    How does the judge know what her DNA is. For all he knows, she could have a Y chromosome and 2 X chromosomes.

  11. 11
    iknklast

    And then, of course, there’s the assumption that only certain genders can have certain names. This is ridiculous, because a name is just a label by which you are known. If you want to be called Christie because you feel more like a Christie than a Steven, it shouldn’t even matter what sex you were born, what sex you are, or what sex you identify with. You should be allowed to have the name you want, if you don’t like the name your parents burdened you with.

  12. 12
    meg

    Seems to be another selective use of science . . . wonder how he feels about climate change?

  13. 13
    cptdoom

    @ Eamon Knight:

    This is interesting to me* as an example of the Fallacy of Genetic Essentialism (I may or may not be the first to use the term), ie. the idea that your DNA defines “you”. It’s the same principle used by anti-choicers to confer inviolate personhood on embryos. I blame superficial pop-science treatments of genetics, combined with a natural human tendency to think in essentialist terms.

    Of course that concept of essentialism, which the right wing LOVES to use to argue against gender equality, is utterly disregarded when it comes to sexuality. Not that it is shocking to find the right wing being hypocritical, but I have always been struck by fundies holding diametrically opposed ideas – that gender is genetically based and therefore all members of each gender are the same, think the same, have the same interests and bring the same value to relationships and society. However, bring up the biological foundation of sexuality, including a “gay gene,” and suddenly genes are not defining. In fact, Rick Warren just expressed this view on Piers Morgan the other night – that just because something is “natural” does not mean you should actually do it. So being gay may be genetic or at least biological, but should be resisted. So the genes that define your gender are prescriptive as to how you live your life, but genes that may determine your sexuality are meaningless and should be resisted.

  14. 14
    Eamon Knight

    @13: Well, from my (occasional, non-systematic) reading, there is a genetic component to sexuality, but it falls a long way short of absolute determinism, ie. there is no “gay gene”. Which is not to say that sexuality isn’t biologically determined; we just don’t know what developmental and/or environmental details also go into the mix. But in any case, the science is irrelevant to the moral and legal question, which is simply about the right of adults to do as they like, and chart the trajectory of their own lives, so long as they are not thereby harming others’ opportunity to do the same.

    Also, Warren is right that some tendencies and urges must be resisted — but unlike his, rational humanist ethics confines such opprobrium to other-harming urges like pedophilia and violent outbursts.

  15. 15
    Jordan Genso

    It’s only tangentially related, but does anyone know if Christie would be able to marry a man in Oklahoma, or would she only be allowed to marry another woman?

  16. 16
    Vicki, duly vaccinated tool of the feminist conspiracy

    I wonder if that wingnut thinks the governor of New Jersey should change his name, or be legally required to always use “Christopher” instead of “Chris” to avoid confusion.

  17. 17
    DaveL

    WTF does DNA have to do with name changing? Last I checked, lots of married people were changing their names without sci-fi DNA recombination surgery.

    I have to wonder: if Graves considers it “fraudulent” to use a name usually associated with females when one is genetically male, would he deny me a change of name to something like “Ahmad”, or “Daikatsu”, on the basis that it might give someone a false impression of my genetic heritage?

  18. 18
    epiblast

    This is interesting to me* as an example of the Fallacy of Genetic Essentialism (I may or may not be the first to use the term), ie. the idea that your DNA defines “you”. It’s the same principle used by anti-choicers to confer inviolate personhood on embryos. I blame superficial pop-science treatments of genetics, combined with a natural human tendency to think in essentialist terms.

    Indeed. What’s particularly idiotic about genetic essentialism is that any given person has likely met first-hand an example demonstrating that genetics does not define personhood: identical twins, who have the same genome but are clearly different individuals.

  19. 19
    epiblast

    Also, on the “fraudulent” nature of allowing a name change to a different gender: Allowing someone to have a name corresponding to their identified gender is more truthful in any useful sense than requiring them to keep a name that doesn’t match it, as such a name change is almost universally part of the process of living as their identified gender and is therefore “truth in advertising”. It’s only “fraud” if one considers it very important that the past and present state of someone’s genitals (specifically their genitals, and not anything about how they are actually integrated into the social fabric) be reliably determinable from someone’s name to complete strangers, regardless of whether the genitals or their history will ever have any relevance.

  20. 20
    JJ831

    Although completely stupid, I wonder if this idiot judge would have done the same thing if they wanted to change their name to something gender-neutral like Alex or Jamie.

    Even if the judge was able to use his babble to justify this, what really defines a name as male or female? I met a Woman with the same name as myself (Jameson), which actually means Son of James. So should she not legally be able to have that name as well?

  21. 21
    Modusoperandi

    Obviously Bill Graves will have to change is name, as “William” means “protection” and “Graves” is “steward”, which is clearly misleading.

  22. 22
    leni

    He’s the Steward of Bullshit, Modus!

    Like the Steward of Gondor, but less likable.

  23. 23
    suttkus

    Look, people, it’s plain to see, that things determined by the genetic code are part of God’s Plan. Humans must not tamper with God’s plan. If it is in your genes to be male, you must be male. By this same completely logical reasoning, we see that all people who dye their hair, must be put to death. Don’t even get me started on colored contacts. God HATES colored contacts. All of these things deceive people about your true genetic state. What if I’m looking to bring properly blue-eyed, blonde children into the world and I can’t tell who is good breeding stock because everyone has dyed hair and colored contacts?

    Just accept that genetics is God’s Plan. And if you have any genetic diseases and you look to science to cure them, you’re defying God’s Plan!

    Of course, people use clothing to disguise their genetic legacy, too. God’s genetic plan demands nudity!

    What could be clearer?

  24. 24
    katenrala

    A person needing to have their physical body changed, or even “just” expressing a gender that does not conform to societal expectations based on their sex are doing these things to live, to survive, and to deny someone the changes or continuations of body, of behavior, of name, is to damn them to a living hell where they are likely to develop extreme mental illnesses, destructive coping mechanisms, and possibly suicide.

    Those who attack a tans* person’s human right to transition in any fashion by any way by the attackers, no matter how little the attack may seem to those of us who are not trans* are among the cruelest members of our species.

  25. 25
    democommie

    “In fact, Rick Warren just expressed this view on Piers Morgan the other night – that just because something is “natural” does not mean you should actually do it.”

    He’s pre-emptively banning the facepunching he might get in certain circles (within the radius of my swing).

    “Also, Warren is right that some tendencies and urges must be resisted — but unlike his, rational humanist ethics confines such opprobrium to other-harming urges like pedophilia and violent outbursts.”

    I think I’m pretty rational but that would not preclude a violent outburst if Li’l Ricky was nearby.

  26. 26
    Nibi

    cptdoom

    In fact, Rick Warren just expressed this view on Piers Morgan the other night – that just because something is “natural” does not mean you should actually do it

    If only somebody could have convinced Rick Warren’s parents.

  27. 27
    Ichthyic

    “In fact, Rick Warren just expressed this view on Piers Morgan the other night – that just because something is “natural” does not mean you should actually do it.”

    the simple response to the naturalist fallacy is to point out that this applies to areas where we can see a direct harm to ourselves or others by applying an observed natural behavior, like cannibalism, within our own culture.

    not one, single, solitary, person EVER demonstrated any harm directly resulting from same sex coupling, to themselves or others, not even when examining the behavior in “nature”.

    same sex penguins do not cause harm to themselves. So, Rick Warren, get back to us when gay sex can be shown to cause penguin flippers to grow fur, or otherwise in ANY way cause DIRECT harm to ANY animal engaging in same-sex coupling.

  28. 28
    Childermass

    Sally Kern took over Graves’ district when he was term limited. Graves was responsible for some failed attempts to get creationist bills passed.

  29. 29
    Draken

    I had to look up Christian Reconstructionism and unfortunately ended up on this bloke Rushdoony’s page. Both sound thoroughly repugnant.

  30. 30
    bradleybetts

    “It is notable that Genesis 1:27-28 states: “And Lo! A man did decide that he was uncomfortable in the gender society and birth had assigned him, and so he utilised the amazing technological and medical advancements made by man (but given to man by God, obviously) and became in physical appearance that which he truly was in his heart. And so he became she and asked that she be referred to as Christie. And the LORD said “No, you filthy pervert! I am confused and afraid by the changes thou hast wrought upon thyself, anf this fear, born of ignorance, leads me to hate you and all you stand for!”. And thus Christie was doomed to forever remain Steven, in opposition to what was in her heart for the LORD, in His mercy, had condemned her to misery and forced her to conform to the gender assigned her, for the LORD is Love.”

    Or something…

  31. 31
    democommie

    Graves is worried that JESUS CHRIST might want to change HIS name to Jesse Kristie–raining frogs, cats & dogs cohabiting, all that shit.

  32. 32
    frog

    I wonder what the judge would rule if a cisgender, hetero man wanted to change his name to Betsy.

    There are plenty of cis-women in this world who have “male” names (the most masculine being “Michael” fercrissakes).

    What a dumbass. Most bigots manage to create a stronger scaffolding for their bullshit than this.

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