Lynchburg Transwoman Denied Name Change by Former Liberty University Lawyer Turned Judge
Judge Yeatts has since reversed his decision and granted Juliana a name change. Read more details here.
A Virginia transgender woman was denied a name change by a Lynchburg circuit court Judge earlier this year and she believes the denial was discriminatory in nature.
Julianna Fialkowski (top image), a 24-year-old Lynchburg transwoman, who just passed her 1st year on hormone treatment, submitted her request for a name change to the Lynchburg Circuit Court in December 2013. The judge asked her to come in for a hearing within a few weeks. At the hearing, Judge F. Patrick Yeatts asked Fialkowski about her medical history, how far she was in transition, and if she had gone through gender reassignment surgery.
“I’d been dealing with trying to actualize this for about a decade,” said Fialkowski who was surprised she was even summoned to court. “There’s plenty of understanding if you’re looking for it (in lynchburg). For the most part, it’s a religiously geared and conservative town.”
According to Fialkowski, Judge Yeatts told her the case was under “extra scrutiny” and it would be put under advisement.
Two weeks after the hearing, a notice came in the mail denying Fialkowski the name change. “I haven’t faced any discrimination up until this point,” she said.
Virginia’s name change laws are some of the easiest in the nation. The process consists of a few forms and a small fee. When GayRVA reached out for legal advice for those denied a name change, lawyers were surprised to hear it even happens.
“There is nothing in the statute that requires the applicant provide medical information. The application merely requires some demographic information (e.g. name, address, parent’s names, prior name changes etc.) and whether or not you are a felon or are incarcerated. The statute indicates that the name change will be granted unless the name change is being done for a fraudulent purpose or infringes upon someone else’s rights.” said Katie Fletcher, the lawyer now representing Fialkowski ahead of a second hearing scheduled for May 23rd, 2014.
“The name change needs to be granted or denied based purely on the statute,” said Fletcher. “We will not be presenting any medical information, we will not answering any questions about medical information, and if the judge denies it again, we’ll appeal it to the Supreme Court of VA.”
Judge Yeatts served as counsel to Jerry Falwell’s conservative Liberty University in the 90′s, and he was a legislative aide for state Sen. Stephen Newman when the Senator wrote VA’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, the Marshall-Newman amendment. He was elected to the Lynchburg Judgeship in 2011 by the state’s General Assembly.
This is the second time in a year a transperson in Virginia has been denied a named change after Jacob Haley was asked for medical records before being granted a name change by a Louisa County judge.
When contacted, a clerk’s office worker said any reason for denial should have been given to Fialkowski along side the denial letter, however no reason was given. Requests to speak with Judge Yeatts were not granted.
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