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News Posted on March 29, 2017

Professor Larson Comments for New York Times, Washington Post on Child Naming Lawsuit

Professor Carlton Larson commented for media including the New York Times, Washington PostAtlanta Journal Constitution, Bloomberg, and Dallas Morning News on the case of a Georgia couple who have sued the state for denying a birth certificate for their daughter on the basis of the parent’s choice of name: Allah. 

Professor Larson said that each state has different laws on what names are acceptable. “Georgia’s reason [for rejecting “Allah”] is the surname doesn’t match that of either parent, and that reason just simply is insufficient,” Larson commented for the Times. “It’s very hard to see what the state is accomplishing by requiring that with surnames.”

The parents are likely to win their case, Professor Larson told the Post. “It’s a First Amendment issue — an expressive act of naming your child,” he said. “And it’s a fundamental right under the 14th Amendment, due process.”

In an article published in the George Washington Law Review in 2011, Larson suggests that many state laws governing baby names would probably not withstand legal challenges. “The state would need to have a compelling reason for rejecting a name, and I don’t see it,” Larson commented for the Journal Constitution. “I would hope that (the parents) would win this case.”

Carlton Larson's research interests focus on constitutional law and legal history, with a strong emphasis on the 18th century.