A mother in Minnesota filed a lawsuit Wednesday against two governmental agencies, a pair of nonprofit corporations and her 17-year-old son, after the transgender teenager received sex-reassignment treatments without parental consent.
In her lawsuit Anmarie Calgaro claims that her parental rights over her child have been infringed upon by the agencies and medical clinics, none of which obtained a court order for the emancipation for the child before facilitating the sex change against the mother’s wishes.
Erick Kaardal, special counsel to the Thomas More Society, which represents Ms. Calgaro, said Minnesota’s emancipation law allows service providers to treat minors as adults without a court order and without an adequate appeals process. He said that violates the right of due process enshrined in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“Parental rights are fundamental rights under the 14th Amendment liberty interest, so they can’t be terminated without due process,” Mr. Kaardal said.
The case brings to the forefront the tension between the rights of parents and those of their LGBT minor offspring.
Dr. Scott Leibowitz, who heads the Adolescent Psychiatrist for the Gender and Sex Development program at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, said there are risks associated with parents who refuse to accept the identities of their gay or transgender children.
“I think that it sends a wrong message to the child that they feel unsupported,” Dr. Leibowitz said. “With children whose families are less supportive, statistics show that there’s a higher rate of suicidal behavior.”
That scenario played out in 2014, when Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teenager from Ohio, committed suicide, citing her parents’ religious beliefs. Gay rights activist Dan Savage said the parents should be “prosecuted” and lose custody of their remaining children.
“We don’t leave kids in the care of parents who just killed one of their other children,” Mr. Savage tweeted at the time.
But Bill Bettencourt, a gay rights activist with the Center for the Study of Social Policy, said he advocates trying to keep children and families together.
“Most times what we recommend is to try to work with families, to help them understand things and work through their issues and hopefully keep them together,” Mr. Bettencourt said.
Ms. Calgaro, who filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Minnesota, does not oppose the sex change procedures for moral or religious reasons, her lawyer said. She simply wants her child to wait and become more mature before making a life-altering decision.
Two Minnesota medical agencies — Park Nicollet Minneapolis Gender Services and Fairview Health Services — provided the minor, only identified in the lawsuit as “J.D.K.,” with male-to-female sex change treatments and narcotics against Ms. Calgaro’s wishes.
The services were paid for by St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services, which also is named in the lawsuit.
Another defendant, St. Louis County Independent School District 2142, began classifying J.D.K. as an adult and refused to let Ms. Calgaro view district records or play a role in the child’s educational decision-making.
“This is an outrageous abuse by multiple agencies,” said Tom Brejcha, president of the Thomas More Society. “To treat a minor child without either parental consent or a court order of emancipation is a violation of the trust placed upon the human service sector and its governmental oversight agencies. To give a parent no recourse to intervene in this situation is an egregious violation of constitutional rights.”
The authority on which the agencies acted was legal advice obtained by J.D.K. from the Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid Clinic. Lawyers wrote a “To Whom It May Concern Letter” that said the minor is emancipated without a court order.
But a court rejected that argument earlier this year, when J.D.K. was denied the opportunity to obtain a name change.
Ms. Calgaro and her child continue to have a good relationship despite the lawsuit, her attorney said.
“They have a good rapport,” Mr. Kaardal said. “So in that way it’s really not a typical emancipation case. But the idea of the government funding him, funding medical services, just goes too far with respect to parental rights.”