Oklahoma Judge Bill Graves has twice ruled against trans women attempting to change their name, and for the second time in as many years, the Oklahoma Appeals Court has overturned his rejection. In a decision issued last Friday, the Civil Appeals Court granted a change of name to Angela Renee Ingram. Ingram had first filed for her name change in July of 2012 and was represented in her appeal by the ACLU of Oklahoma.
Graves’ decisions against Ingram, and in another case against an individual changing her name to Christie Ann Harvey, relied heavily on religious dogma. Oklahoma law allows for name changes “unless the court or judge finds that the change is sought for an illegal or fraudulent purpose.” Rejecting transgender identities, Graves ruled in both cases that because an individual can not change her DNA, it is thus “fraudulent” to take a name of the other gender.
In the Harvey case, Graves cited the Bible to support his conclusion (decision issued September 2, 2011):
Here, Petitioner has not even had the surgery by which his [sic] sex purports to be changed. Thus, based on the foregoing and the DNA evidence, a sex change cannot make a man a woman or a woman a man all of which, the Court finds is sufficient in and of itself to deny Petitioner’s request for a name change. To grant a name change in this case would be to assist that which is fraudulent. 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.
Graves issued his ruling in the Ingram case on November 14, 2012, just one week before the Appeals Court overturned his decision in the Harvey case. His reasoning was identical to his ruling against Harvey, but he took exception that a newspaper editorial had suggested that in his previous decision, he “appears to be allowing his moral aversion to transgender cases to rule the day.” He proceeded to write a ten-page history report into the decision explaining his belief that American government is rooted in Christianity. Doubling down on his biblical conclusion, he added that the Founding Fathers would support that ruling:
The foregoing summary of the relationship of God, religion, and State in America clearly shows that the Founders of America and the Framers of its Constitution, as well as Presidents, Legislators, and numerous Supreme Court Justices, firmly believes that the God of the Bible is the Creator of mankind. The Framers clearly appeared to believe that government not under the Sovereignty of God leads to tyranny. The very word “tyranny” comes from an ancient Greek word meaning “secular rule,” that is, rule by man rather than by means of God’s law. Higher law is being supplanted by secular rule or positive law. Conversely, one is compelled to believe that the Framers firmly subscribed to the teachings of that Bible and believed it was infallible — including Genesis 1:27, 28, which states: “….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 that the God America’s Founders and Framers acknowledged, worshipped [sic], and were obedient to, meant for men and women to stay male and female.
The Appeals Court’s new decision in the Ingram case quoted verbatim from its ruling in the Harvey case. They dismissed Graves’ conclusion that trans people are somehow fraudulent, finding that he abused his discretion in his ruling:
The law does not require males be given traditionally male names, or females traditionally female names, by their parents at birth. Additionally, there are numerous gender-androgynous names. The relevant issue in a name change proceeding is not whether the applicant’s DNA corresponds with the traditionally male or female name preferred by the applicant. The statute does not change the sex of the applicant, only the applicant’s name. The trial court’s denial was not based on a finding that a material allegation in the petition was false… The trial court’s finding that Harvey sought a name change for an illegal or fraudulent purpose is not supported by the evidence.
Graves told the AP that the new defeat was “very disappointing,” doubling down on his belief that attempting to change one’s gender is “counterfeit,” but promising to obey the ruling.
Judge Graves previously served in the state legislature for 24 years, where he was a fierce opponent of LGBT equality. He was one of the first to sponsor a constitutional amendment banning marriage for same-sex couples, writing legally recognizing any same-sex relationship “shall be considered repugnant to the public policy of the state.” When he reached his term limits, his seat was filled by Rep. Sally Kern (R), who infamously compares homosexuality to terrorism, arguing that homosexuality is actually the bigger threat to the country of the two.
In 2011, Graves openly opposed a change to the state’s judicial conduct code to protect sexual orientation from discrimination by judges. He objected because it would have “homosexuality treated as normal and natural as heterosexuality.” “Sexual orientation,” he argued, would include “pedophiles and polygamists,” and he condemned the “detestable and abominable crime against nature” of “anal sodomy,” which “no doubt has contributed greatly to the AIDS plague.” Graves also argued that sexual orientation should be usable as grounds to forbid child custody, because homosexuality is “detrimental to children.”
In his decisions in these two cases, Graves called his own medical expert to answer his questions about sex changes and DNA. That doctor was none other than Oklahoma state Rep. Mike Ritze (R), who infamously sponsored and paid for a granite monument of the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Oklahoma state capitol.