DALLAS, March 28, 2018—Civil rights attorneys and the Texas-based Trans Pride Initiative announced today a project challenging the constitutionality of a section of the Texas Family Code, which they allege imperils transgender inmates and others in Texas and may violate constitutional rights.
Section 103 of the Texas Family Code contains a stipulation that prevents anyone in Texas with a felony conviction from changing their legal name until “not less than two years have passed from the date of the receipt of discharge or completion of community supervision or juvenile probation.” This amounts to a blanket denial for people who are incarcerated, even though name and gender marker corrections, as well as other gender-affirming care, are considered medically necessary treatment for transgender persons.
“I believe the statute raises grave constitutional concerns on a number of fronts,” commented attorney Moira Melter-Cohen. She first encountered the statute when discussing a name correction for Marius Mason, an environmental and animal rights activist serving a sentence in a Fort Worth federal facility. Nell Gaither, President of Texas-based Trans Pride Initiative, mentioned Section 103 as a broad barrier to attempting a name correction.
Mr. Mason, a transgender man, is currently forced to use a legal name that encourages harassment and abuse in the system. “[I]t causes me great stress and allows peers here who are mocking of my transgender identity a laugh at my expense every time I use the phone [or] am called over the intercom of the prison,” noted Mr. Mason.
“For transgender persons,” Ms. Gaither adds, “this extends the term of their sentence by two more years, and places cruel and unnecessary barriers in the way of gaining stability on release. We need to eliminate barriers for trans persons trying to survive, not make issues harder by tacking on additional punishment.”
The effort to overturn Section 103 of the Texas Family Code, dubbed Project 103, will begin fundraising for a civil rights fling on April 2. Brian McGiverin of the Austin Community Law Center, who is serving as the lead attorney for the fling, estimates that about $5,000 will be needed to cover filing fees and other costs. A project information and fundraising page (103.tpride.org) has been set up to help promote the project and fundraising effort.
Information and fundraising links for Project 103 are available at the project web site: http://103.tpride.org.
The section of the Texas Family Code being challenged is available at the Texas Constitution and Statutes web site: http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/FA/htm/FA.45.htm.
Information about Marius Mason is available at his support page: https://supportmariusmason.org/.