Does Wis. Stat. § 301.45, the statute governing juvenile sex offender registration, unconstitutionally infringe on Ella’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech by preventing her from legally changing her name to reflect her gender identity?
Does requiring Ella to register under Wis. Stat. § 301.45 amount to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment?
Ella is a pseudonym for the petitioner here. As we’ve noted, her legal name is masculine in association; during her juvenile disposition she was transitioning to a female identity. She contends that the registry’s ban on name changes–which, for her, means she must always identify as male in situations requiring use of her legal name–violates her rights in two ways. First, it violates her First Amendment right to free expression; this is a proposition that finds substantial support in cases from other jurisdictions. Second, she argues that the burden placed on her–particularly when compared to the nonexistent-to-paltry public interest in having her register as a sex offender–constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
The court of appeals brushed the first claim off in a facile, question-begging few paragraphs. As to the second, it held that State v. Bollig, 2000 WI 6, 232 Wis. 2d 561, 605 N.W.2d 199–though it concerned neither a juvenile, nor a name change, nor even the Eighth Amendment–foreclosed Ella’s challenge. Here’s hoping SCOW gives Ella’s claims the consideration they deserve.