Sophia Lothamer, a transgender woman, filed a petition for a legal name change in Hillsdale County Circuit Court. She complied with all the requirements of Michigan’s name change statute, including being fingerprinted, having a criminal background check, and publishing notice of her hearing in the local legal news. However, when she arrived at court for what should have been a routine hearing, Chief Judge Michael Smith refused to grant her petition for a legal name change, stating she would have to come back when she completed gender confirmation surgery, which is not required under Michigan law. 

In May 2018 the ACLU of Michigan sent a letter to Judge Smith explaining that he had no legal authority to impose a surgical requirement for a legal name change and doing so would be unconstitutional. In response, Judge Smith ordered Ms. Lothamer’s case reassigned to a different judge, stating in his order his “religious convictions” precluded him from granting her relief. 

In June 2018 we represented her at a hearing before a different judge, and Ms. Lothamer was able to obtain her legal name change. 

(In re Lothamer; ACLU Attorney Jay Kaplan.)