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Oklahoma appeals court reverses judge's denial of name change after sex change application

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OKLAHOMA CITY — An Oklahoma appeals court ruled Friday that a woman who became female through gender-reassignment surgery has the right to change her name in spite of a district judge's opinion that to do so "is fraudulent."

A unanimous three-judge panel of the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals handed down the ruling in an application filed by James Dean Ingram for a change of name to Angela Renee Ingram.

The ruling reversed a decision by Oklahoma County District Judge Bill Graves, who denied the application in a November 2012 ruling that said sex change surgery "is a counterfeit" and does not change a person's DNA.

"Thus, based on the scientific evidence of DNA, a sex change cannot make a man a woman or a woman a man," the ruling said. "To grant a name change in this case would be to assist that which is fraudulent."

The case is the second in the past two years in which the appeals court has reversed Graves on a name change issue. In a separate 2012 case, Graves rejected an application from a person seeking a name change from Steven Charles Harvey to Christie Ann Harvey.

In both cases, Graves cited passages from the Bible including verses from the book of Genesis that read in part: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."

"The DNA code shows God meant for them to stay male and female," Graves ruled in the Ingram case.

Graves, a former Republican state lawmaker, said Friday that the latest appeals court ruling is "very disappointing."

"We can't change our sex, the way God made us. These things are really counterfeit," the judge said. Nevertheless, Graves said he will grant the name change application as instructed by the appeals court.

"I'll have to follow what they say," he said.

Ingram's attorney, Brady Henderson, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, said the case was about a person's right to be known by the name the person chooses more than religious principles.

"It's all about a name," Henderson said. "It's much more about a fundamental First Amendment issue. A judge shouldn't reach any religious issues to make this decision."

Graves represented a northwest Oklahoma City district in the Legislature for 24 years and was a fierce opponent of gay rights. In 2004, he filed a bill to deny recognition of same-sex marriage or civil unions and declare that such relationships "shall be considered repugnant to the public policy of the state."

After being forced from office because of term limits, Graves was replaced by current Republican state Rep. Sally Kern, who has described homosexuality as a greater threat to the United States than terrorism.

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