A Warren County judge is being sued over allegations he's not granting name changes to kids who are transgender.
The plaintiffs in a new federal lawsuit claim Judge Joseph Kirby is violating the constitutional rights of their transgender children by not granting name changes.
For people who are transgender, a legal name change is the first step in changing things like a driver's license, passport or college application. The attorneys involved in the suit claim this is usually a "rubber stamp" process, but it has become more complicated for transgender teens.
"Quite simply, this is a violation of the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs in this case, by treating their children differently because of their transgender status," said attorney Josh Langdon.
The Shaul family found themselves pulled into the fight in order to protect their child. They have filed for a name change, but their hearing has not taken place yet.
"By the denial of this, it's another step of the struggle that he deals with every single day," said Jennifer Shaul.
The Whitaker family had a hearing in front of Judge Kirby, and their request for a name change was denied.
"This should have been a private family matter. Instead, we feel our rights were violated," said Kylen Whitaker.
Both families, along with a third, unnamed family, are part of a federal lawsuit filed against Judge Kirby.
"The process for me is not just defending our child, but to raise awareness for other families and children that might be going through this," Whitaker said.
What has been a private journey of learning and acceptance for these parents and their children is now posed to become a legal journey through federal court.
"I'm very proud of my child, and I'll do anything in the world for them to succeed as long as they feel they're doing the right thing," Whitaker said.
The lawsuit specifically points out the higher risk of victimization, anxiety, depression and suicide for transgender teens.
Members of both families say they and their children have not come to this decision easily. It has involved therapy and working with doctors. Both said they are sure it's not a phase their children are going through.
"Honestly, I know this sounds kind of sad, but it's a saying that helps me – I'd rather have an alive son than a dead daughter," Shaul said.
The next step is for a federal judge to set a hearing date. The plaintiffs have asked for an expedited hearing.