Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules Transgender Sex Offender Can't Change Name to Avoid Sex Offender Registry

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled against allowing a transgender woman to request a name change due to an existing status on the state’s sex offender registry.

In a 4-3 ruling by the conservative-led court, justices cited the state’s law forbidding people on the registry from changing their names or using aliases. The case surrounds a 22-year-old transgender woman, identified in court only as Ella, who was placed on the registry at the age of 15 for sexually assaulting a disabled 14-year-old boy, according to court records.

Ella’s “size” at the time of the assault is critical to understanding the “forceful nature of the sexual assault,” the court noted, as the incident occurred before the petitioner’s decision to identify as a transgender woman. Ella was 6 feet and 5 inches tall and over 300 pounds at the time when the victim, who weighed 110 pounds and was blind in one eye, was sexually assaulted.

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Attorneys for Ella argued preventing the name change and removal from the sex offender registry violated the First and Eighth Amendments as a violation of free speech as well as cruel and unusual punishment, though the court rejected both arguments.

“Consistent with well established precedent, we hold Ella’s placement on the sex offender registry is not a ‘punishment’ under the Eighth Amendment,” Justice Rebecca Bradley wrote for the majority. “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.”

Bradley was joined in the majority by Chief Justice Annette Ziegler and Justices Patience Roggensack and Brian Hagedorn. Justice Ann Walsh Bradley wrote the dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justices Rebecca Dallet and Jill Karofsky.

“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,” Bradley wrote for the minority, saying that the Eighth Amendment argument would not hold up but contending the plaintiff should be allowed a name change based on First Amendment rights.

Despite being biologically male, the justices referred to Ella under “she” pronouns in court records.

The court also noted the felony charges Ella would have faced had the crime been committed as an adult.

“Had Ella been an adult, she would have been guilty of a Class C Felony carrying a maximum penalty of 40 years imprisonment and a $100,000 fine,” the court wrote.

The majority also said that Ella may dress and live as a woman unabated, arguing that the plaintiff could do so without acquiring a legal name change.

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“The State has not branded Ella with her legal name, and when Ella presents a government-issued identification card, she is free to say nothing at all or to say, ‘I go by Ella,'” the majority contended.

Ella’s public defender, Cary Bloodworth, has been contacted by the Washington Examiner.

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