Wisconsin Supreme Court rules trans sex offender cannot change her name

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled against a trans woman’s request to change her name as she is a registered sex offender and people on the sex offender registry cannot change their names.

On Thursday (7 July) the conservative majority Wisconsin Supreme Court vote came to a 4-3 decision, consistent with the rulings of two lower courts, which rejected the woman’s request change her name and remove her from the sex offenders registry.

The 22-year-old woman, called Ella in court documents, registered as a sex offender when she was 15 after she was convicted of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old disabled boy.

At the time of the assault, Ella was 6’5 and more than 135 kilograms. In contrast, the victim was 49 kilograms, blind in one eye and autistic, as per ABC.

After the assault, Ella victimised the boy by taunting him on Facebook and telling students about it.

Those who voted against the sex change stated that the details of the previous assault case were important to understand the severity of the crime. Ella joined the list as a male and was made to register for 15 years.

Wisconsin state law prohibits sex offenders from changing their names or using aliases.

Ella used the argument that the courts refusal to grant her request infringed on her First and Eighth Amendment rights that cover free speech and cruel and unusual punishment, respectively.

But the Supreme Court rejected both these arguments.

Justice Rebecca Bradley spoke on behalf of the majority and said: “Consistent with well established precedent, we hold Ella’s placement on the sex offender registry is not a ‘punishment’ under the Eighth Amendment.

“Even if it were, sex offender registration is neither cruel nor unusual. We further hold Ella’s right to free speech does not encompass the power to compel the State to facilitate a change of her legal name.”

The majority stated that Ella could take other steps to express her gender identity, saying, “nothing prohibits her from dressing in women’s clothing, wearing make-up, growing out her hair, or using a feminine alias.”

The opposing minority stated that they did not agree with Ella’s argument that it infringed on her Eight Amendment of cruel and unusual punishment.

But, the minority did agree that she should be allowed to change her name based on First Amendment rights of free speech.

Ann Walsh Bradley, who wrote for the minority, said: “Requiring Ella to maintain a name that is inconsistent with her gender identity and forcing her to out herself every time she presents official documents exposes her to discrimination and abuse.”