A couple in the US state of Georgia are taking the state to court over their child’s surname. They want to call their 22-month-old daughter ZalyKha Graceful Lorraina Allah, but have been told that’s illegal.
Elizabeth Handy and Bilal Walk said they wanted to name their second child the Arabic name for God, because it is a “noble” choice. They say it has nothing to do with religion.
Mr Walk said the refusal of the state to issue an official birth certificate is a “violation of our rights”.
Handy and Walk are unmarried, and lawyers for the Department of Health said Georgia “requires that a baby’s surname be either that of the father or the mother for the purposes of the initial birth record”.
However, the lawyers also say that once the initial birth record is created, “the child’s surname can be changed through a petition to a superior court”.
But the delay in registering the child’s birth has serious consequences, according to the court petition from Handy and Walk. They say they have been unable to acquire a Social Security number for ZalyKha, which has prevented them from getting healthcare coverage and food benefits. They also fear that without a birth certificate, it will be impossible to enroll ZalyKha in pre-school or the public school system.
The state’s lawyer said that the legal subsection which has caused this issue “does not forbid any surname”, but instead “ensures names based on cultural naming conventions in the parents’ country of origin will be honoured”. Counsel Sidney Barrett, Jr added that the baby’s surname must be either Handy or Walk, as “Ms. Handy has not claimed that her chosen surname for ZalyKha is based on such a foreign cultural convention”.
According to court records, Handy and Walk also have a son named Masterful Mosirah Aly Allah. The American Civil Liberties Union, who are supporting Handy and Walk in their claim, say 3-year-old Masterful Allah was granted a birth certificate with “no problem”.
A lawyer working for the family, Michael Baumrind, said: “The parents get to decide the name of the child. Not the state. It is an easy case”.