A Minnesota mother is suing her teenage child for transitioning from male to female without her permission.
Anmarie Calgaro is also suing the 17-year-old’s doctors, social service providers and school officials in the lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.
Calgaro contends that her child has been treated at a Minneapolis health clinic and was given hormone therapy without her consent. She also says the St. Louis County School District, where the teen is a student, has refused to give her access to educational records and that the clinic has refused her access to medical records.
At the heart of the case is whether the teen has been legally emancipated and whether Calgaro has a right to challenge that emancipation — or has any recourse to regain her parental rights over the teen.
Calgaro’s attorney, Erick G. Kaardal, said his client was never given notice that her child was seeking emancipation, nor was there a court hearing or a court order making her child a legal adult. The teenager, identified in court documents as J.D.K., turns 18 in July.
The lawsuit includes a copy of a letter of emancipation the teen obtained from a lawyer, but notes that the letter doesn’t constitute a court order. “In many other areas of family law — divorce, child protection, paternity cases — the necessary steps to emancipation are laid out,” Kaardal said. Not in this case.
“My client is seeking an opportunity to be heard in court,” he said.
But Laura Thomas, a family law professor at the University of Minnesota law school, said it is not clear that a court order is needed for J.D.K. to be emancipated, or that Calgaro has a right to intervene.
“Honestly, it’s a no man’s land,” she said. “It might be a little too little, a little too late for her.”
A 1971 Minnesota law refers to medical treatment for an emancipated child without a court order and the termination of parental rights.
“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any minor who is living separate and apart from parents or legal guardian, whether with or without the consent of a parent or guardian and regardless of the duration of such separate residence, and who is managing personal financial affairs … may give effective consent to personal medical, dental, mental and other health services, and the consent of no other person is required.”
Calgaro acknowledges that state law provides her with no clear way for her to regain her rights. She is asking the federal court to intervene, to stop her teenager’s continued treatment and to reaffirm her parental rights. She is also seeking damages in excess of $50,000.
“As a parent and mother, Anmarie Calgaro seeks to have this Court affirm her parental rights over her minor children. Minnesota common law allows for the emancipation of minor children. However, while the law provides no distinct process for emancipation, there is no process for a parent to protect their fundamental parental rights to make decisions concerning the care, custody and control of their children,” her attorney wrote. But, in the letter outlining that J.D.K. is emancipated, written by an attorney with Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid in June 2015, the lawyer says the teen had been living apart from Calgaro for six months and that she “knows where he is and has made no attempts to bring him home; mother has made it known to him that she no longer wishes to have any contact with him.”
A call to the attorney who wrote the letter on behalf of the teen was not immediately returned.
Dana Kazel, a spokeswoman for St. Louis County social services, declined to comment, citing county, state and federal policies.
Thomas said the letter from the legal aid attorney “feels like an argument to me. The way I read the statute [emancipation] doesn’t just happen.” Still, she acknowledged, Minnesota law does not say a court order is needed.
“Our state has not formulated a template for this,” Thomas said.
Even if the teen were not emancipated, it is not clear that Calgaro could stop the gender transition from moving ahead, said Anthony Winer, a constitutional law professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul. A parent does not have the right to issue a veto over a child’s fundamental decisions about their medical care, he said.
“Abortion cases make that clear,” Winer said, pointing out that the law allows a minor seeking an abortion the opportunity to convince a judge that she is mature enough to have the procedure.