A school district in Minnesota worked with local government and medical professionals to help a 16-year old boy “transition” to the opposite sex – without parental consent and without a court order legally emancipating him. The boy’s mother, Anmarie Calgaro, began fighting back, first in state courts and then in federal courts.
Now she’s appealing her parental rights case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Her petition, filed with the aid of the Thomas More Society, questions whether local governments, medical providers and school districts may end parental control over their minor children, “without a judicial order of emancipation, without parental waiver, and without parental notice.”
Erick Kaardal, Thomas More Society Special Counsel, says ““This is an unacceptable situation for any parent and a serious violation of parental and due process rights.” He continues, “It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. Anmarie Calgaro’s child, while a minor, was steered through a life-changing, permanent body-altering process, becoming a pawn in someone else’s sociopolitical agenda and being influenced by those who have no legal or moral right to usurp the role of a parent.”
The case started in 2015 when Calgaro’s son, just a week away from his 16th birthday, obtained a letter from the Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid Clinic stating he was an emancipated minor. The clinic took the boy’s word for his status, without talking to his mother or verifying his story in any way.
In news reports, the teen, identified in the petition as “E.J.K.” to protect his identity, said he came out to his mother and stepfather as gay at the age of 13 and this led to verbal and physical abuse, so he moved in with his biological father. His biological father was incarcerated, so he lived with his grandmother and then friends, until getting an apartment of his own at age 15.
Calgaro tells a different story, saying she’s always offered a home to E.J.K. Her appeal explains, “She also communicated with E.J.K. about how E.J.K. would always be welcome in their home and always made efforts to ensure a connection between her and E.J.K. She never willingly or implicitly gave up control nor custody of her child or any of her other children.” No court revoked her parental rights, declared her unfit to parent or gave E.J.K legal emancipation.
Calgaro’s son showed his “letter of emancipation” to his high school principal, who ended Calgaro’s involvement in his education, despite the fact that she had joint legal custody over him. She was not notified by the school and was given no recourse. There isn’t a Minnesota law allowing schools to make this decision, but the petition explains that it was simply a “custom and practice” of the school district.
The boy then sought to change his name from “J.D.K.” to “E.J.K.” A court denied the name change because he had not been legally emancipated by a court order. Despite that, the 16-year-old had already obtained medical services from Park Nicollet Health Services and Fairview Range Hospital. They provided services based on a letter from a legal aid clinic, without parental consent or notification.
While the Supreme Court petition does not list the specific medical services provided, the Thomas More Society says E.J.K. was “shepherded through a sex change by county officials and their referred health providers.” Park Nicollet’s website says it provides “Gender Services” such as opposite-sex hormones, hormone self-injection instruction, hysterectomies for female-to-male transition, surgery referrals and pediatric endocrinology referrals. Transgender surgeries are largely irreversible, and cross-sex hormones have serious health risks such as sterility, cardiac disease, blood clots, strokes, diabetes and cancer.
A Minnesota statute allows minors living apart from their parents or guardian to receive medical, dental and mental health services without consent of their parents or any other person. Calgaro’s petition asserts that this strips parents of their fundamental right to act in the best interest of the child.
In addition to alleging that medical professionals and school officials violated parental rights, the appeal also claims that St. Louis County violated the mother’s rights. Minnesota law states that children under 18 who don’t live with a parent, stepparent or legal custodian may receive general assistance – welfare – if they are legally emancipated. The petition alleges that the county gave E.J.K general assistance, “without a court order of emancipation.”
The Thomas More Society explains, “Under federal law, the right to parent is considered an unenumerated right, protected from governmental interference by the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.” They are right. The Supreme Court has long held that parents, because they love their children and have their best interest at heart, have the right to oversee the custody, care and moral upbringing of their children.
John Helmberger, CEO of our state affiliated Minnesota Family Council, agrees that this case is a parental nightmare, with “a mom losing parental rights with no due process and a minor child being taken away and given hormone treatment without parental knowledge or approval. We’re especially concerned that it’s happening right here in Minnesota.”
Helmberger added, “It’s a travesty that lower courts have ruled against due process and against parental rights. We fervently hope that the Supreme Court will hear this case and strongly affirm that no parent’s rights should be terminated without due process.”
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