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Austin Cline

Judge Bill Graves Cites Bible to Deny Transgender Name Changes

By October 2, 2012

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In Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, people getting sex-change operations will have to be careful when they petition the court for a name change: give judges routinely approve the requests but one, Judge Bill Graves, denies them and cites the Bible when he does so.

Wedding of Transsexual Georgina Turtle, 1962
Wedding of Transsexual Georgina Turtle, 1962
Photo: FPG/Getty

To be fair, Judge Bill Graves does cite other reasons for denying name changes that signal a change in gender, but he's unable to substantiate any of those reasons. For example he cites the possibility of fraud or interference with police investigations, but he never cites any cases where this has happened and he never demonstrates that the people before him have done or would do such things.

But that's no surprise because I don't think anyone believes that Graves actually relies upon those reasons in his decisions. Those are rationalizations, not reasons. His real reason is communicated in his citation of Genesis: God made men and women separately so they have to stay separate. I'm sure that if he could prevent the sex-change operations entirely, he would.

"A so-called sex-change surgery can make one appear to be the opposite sex, but in fact they are nothing more than an imitation of the opposite sex," the judge wrote in a seven-page order last year.

"Here, petitioner has not even had the surgery by which his 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," Graves wrote.

"To grant a name change in this case would be to assist that which is fraudulent," Graves wrote. "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."

The judge also wrote about not wanting to be "complicit in legitimizing sex changes through changes of names."

Source: News OK

It's disturbing that Bill Graves is a judge at all. It's "notable" what Genesis says? No, it's not legally notable at all. Citing the Bible isn't always and automatically wrong in a legal decision, but it's only justified when trying to describe something like a cultural context or if it's a place where might cite literature.

In this case, though, Graves is citing Genesis as a basis for his legal decision and that is wrong. It's also absurd because it assumes an absolute distinction between male and female which is unambiguously communicated via names. Both parts of that assumption are false.

Taking the latter first, a number of names have actually switched gender over the years and centuries. Is "Marion" a male or female name? Ask John Wayne. How about "Kim," "Carol," "Meredith," or "Stacy"?

As for the former, it completely ignores the biological fact of ambiguous sex. What about hermaphroditism -- how does that fit in Bill Graves' narrow, biblical world view? What about "testicular feminization," a condition where a person is genetically male because they are resistant to male hormones they have some or all of the physical characteristics of women?

Living your life according to concepts and definitions as they were understood by sheep herders who lived 3,000 years ago is dumb, but it's your personal right. Forcing others to live according to those same concepts and definitions is not your right, it's a form of oppression.

October 5, 2012 at 2:55 pm
(1) Lisa says:

I had heard about this a couple of weeks ago. This judge is unfit for service and needs to be disbarred.

October 5, 2012 at 3:30 pm
(2) jtl says:

Judge Bill Graves may need to be removed from the bench. He is breaking the law by consulting a particular religion in order to rule on court cases. Sounds unconstitutional to me.

October 5, 2012 at 7:09 pm
(3) OZAtheist says:

It’s extraordinary the way theists like Bill Graves manage to maintain their stark black and white view of sexuality. Your strategy of bring in the examples of hermaphrodites, and people with ambiguous sex, is a good one Austin, but from my experience this seems to pass harmlessly over the watertight backs of bigoted theists. They just tend to play dumb when this is brought to their attention – they do dumb very well I have found.

October 12, 2012 at 9:06 pm
(4) Bette says:

Judge Graves should, at the very least, be disciplined for violating his oath of office. People change their names for all sorts of reasons. It’s not up to a judge to decide whether the new name is acceptable to her/him. Milton Supman had his name legally changed to Soupy Sales. Would Judge Graves have denied this name change based on the fact that Milton Supman was neither “a liquid dish, typically made by boiling meat, fish, or vegetables, etc., in stock or water,” nor “the exchange of a commodity for money; the action of selling something?”

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