Mom sues to regain parental rights over transgender teen

A Minnesota mother has filed a lawsuit in federal court to re-establish her parental rights after a legal aid attorney declared her minor son emancipated from his parents last year. The suit contends the emancipation letter allowed her then-16-year-old son to receive public assistance, which he used to begin hormone treatments for gender-transition therapy.

Minnesota law regarding the emancipation of minors—when a minor is legally declared independent of parents—is inconsistent with the state’s other parental rights laws, said Erik Kaardal, attorney for the mother, Anmarie Calgaro. The lawsuit claims Calgaro’s federal right of due process was denied when the legal aid attorney declared her son emancipated. It was months before she could determine why she was barred from accessing her son’s school and medical records and why she had no say in his life-altering medical treatment.

“Anmarie has lost complete control of her teenage son without any court proceedings or court hearings,” Kaardal told reporters at a press conference today in Duluth, Minn.

Calgaro told reporters she knew her son struggled with his gender identity and wanted to attend a different high school, so she agreed to let him move in with his father. The parents are divorced and have joint custody. Shortly after moving to his father’s in 2015, the teen, who was not named in court documents, moved out, eventually getting an apartment of his own.

Minnesota statute allows minors living independent of their parents to seek emancipation. But the low standard for declaring emancipation runs afoul of state custody law and federal due-process laws, Kaardal said.

“In a marital dissolution proceeding, if we are terminating rights of a parent without notifying the parents, you would all be horrified,” Kaardal told reporters.

In October 2015, Calgaro’s son petitioned a county court to change his name to a female name. He tried again in January in a different county. Both courts denied the petition because he did not have parental permission or a court order demonstrating his emancipation.

Kaardal noted the incongruity.

“He was able to get medical consent for life-changing treatments,” he said. “But then when it came to a name change in both the counties, the judge said, you don’t have a court order of emancipation and you haven’t given notice to your parents.”

But with the letter from Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid declaring his emancipation, he was able to receive financial assistance from St. Louis County, including Medicaid, which he used to begin transition therapy without his parents’ knowledge or consent.

Kaardal told me he does not know who guided the teen through the legal hoops required to attain emancipation, public assistance, and life-altering medical treatment. One county court document noted two unnamed witnesses appeared with the teen when he petitioned for the name change. Kaardal did not know if the minor has received counseling

The lawsuit names as defendants St. Louis County and its Interim Director of Public Health and Human Services Linnea Mirsch; Fairview Health Services; Park Nicollet Health Services; St. Louis County School District; Michael Johnson, principal of the Cherry School; and Calgaro’s son.

Park Nicollet has provided sex-change treatment for the minor, while Fairview has prescribed “narcotics” —all without the consent or knowledge of his mother, the suit alleges.

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages and a declaratory judgment that Calgaro’s due-process rights were violated when the defendants treated her son as an emancipated minor without a court order. She also seeks an injunction preventing the defendants from any similar treatment of her minor children should they, too, be deemed emancipated by the defendants.

— by Bonnie Pritchett

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