MADISON, Wisconsin ( Associated Press) – The Wisconsin Conservative majority’s court on Thursday said a transgender woman could not change her name because she was on the state’s registry of sex offenders and the law did not allow people on the registry to change their names. .
The court’s 4-3 ruling confirms the rulings of two lower courts, which rejected the woman’s requests to change her name and avoid registering as a sex offender.
The woman, who was identified in court documents only as Ella, had to register as a sex offender after she was found guilty of sexually assaulting a disabled 14-year-old boy when she was 15 years old. She is now 22. She has entered the criminal justice system to identify as male and has been ordered to register as a sex offender for 15 years. State laws prohibit registered sex offenders from changing their names or using aliases not listed in the register of sex offenders.
Ella’s attorneys argued that failing to allow her to change her name or avoid registering as a sex offender violated the First and Eighth Amendments as both a violation of her free speech and cruel and unusual punishment. .
The Supreme Court rejected both of those arguments.
“In accordance with an established precedent, we believe that Ella’s placement on the register of sex offenders is not a ‘punishment’ under the Eighth Amendment,” Judge Rebecca Bradley wrote for the majority. “Even if it was, registration of sex offenders is not cruel or unusual. We further believe that Ella’s right to free speech does not encompass the power to compel the state to facilitate a change of her legal name. ”
Rebecca Bradley was joined in the majority by Chief Justice Annette Ziegler and Judges Patience Roggensack and Brian Hagedorn. Judge Ann Walsh Bradley wrote the dissenting opinion and was joined by Judges Rebecca Dallet and Jill Karofsky.
The conflicting judges agreed that Ella’s arguments alleging an eighth amendment violate violations of cruel and unusual punishment. But they said she should be allowed to ask a court to legally change her name based on First Amendment rights.
“Requiring Ella to maintain a name that conflicts with her gender identity and forcing her to present herself every time she presents official documents exposes her to discrimination and abuse,” Bradley wrote for the minority.
Cary Bloodworth, the public protector representing Ella, did not return a message asking for comment.
Associated Press author Harm Venhuizen contributed to this report. He is a corps member for the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that puts journalists in local newsrooms to report on topical issues. Follow him on Twitter https://twitter.com/HarmVenhuizen.