By David McLoone
A Wisconsin law forbidding individuals registered as sex offenders from legally changing their names will not be suspended for so-called “transgender” offenders, the state’s conservative Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
The Associated Press reported Thursday that a 22-year-old man who was convicted seven years ago of sexually assaulting a disabled teenage boy now wishes to identify as a woman and has petitioned courts to change his name and evade listing as a sex offender.
Though just 15 years old at the time of the conviction, the man – who is referred to as “Ella” in court documents – stood at six feet, five inches and weighed over 300 pounds. His victim was blind in one eye, weighed around 110 pounds, and autistic, court records show.
The court emphasized that “Ella’s” proportions highlight the “forceful nature of the sexual assault.”
Part of “Ella’s” sentence was to be enlisted on the sex offender’s register for 15 years, at which time he was registered as a male. State law forbids sex offenders from changing their name in any way from that which is recorded on the registry, according to the Associated Press.
After a lower court had ruled that the man’s filing for a name change could not be lawfully made while on the register, an appeal in Wisconsin’s Supreme Court was rejected 4–3.
The man’s lawyers argued that the original ruling constituted a violation of his First and Eighth Amendment rights, supposedly infringing upon his free speech while representing a cruel or unusual punishment.
However, the Supreme Court disregarded the claim, with Justice Rebecca Bradley stating that “Ella’s placement on the sex offender registry is not a ‘punishment’ under the Eighth Amendment, and that “[e]ven 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,” Bradley added.
The judge noted that “Ella” is not legally prohibited from “dressing in women’s clothing, wearing make-up, growing out her [sic] hair, or using a feminine alias” if he wishes. “The State has not branded Ella with her legal name, and when Ella presents a government-issued identification card, she [sic] is free to say nothing at all or to say, ‘I go by Ella.’”
Bowing to “Ella’s” preferred gender identity and despite being a biological male, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley wrote in dissent that requiring the sexual abuser “to maintain a name that is inconsistent with her [sic] gender identity and forcing her to out herself every time she presents official documents exposes her to discrimination and abuse.”
Walsh Bradley agreed with the majority, however, that no cruel or unusual punishment had occurred.