Baby Name Law: Can You Name Your Child 'Toilet Queen'?
Just when you thought all of the good law review article topics had been snatched up, professor Carlton Larson of the UC Davis School of Law proves you wrong with his new article entitled, "Naming Baby: The Constitutional Dimensions of Parental Naming Rights." In the article, which Larson notes in this post on the PrawfsBlawg is still "currently on the adoption market and is seeking a loving home," he analyzes the extent to which the law can constitutionally regulate the ability of parents to name their children, particularly where "parents agree on their child’s proposed name, but the government nonetheless denies that name legal recognition."
Here are some of the areas regulated under various state laws:
- Prohibition on Ideograms and Pictograms: A number of states "prohibit the use of ideograms or pictograms as part of the child’s name." That is to say, Prince's parents could not have named him using a symbol in certain states.
- Prohibitions on Numerals: Several states prohibit the use of a numerical symbol. That means you can name your child "Eight" but not "8" (or "Seven Costanza" but not "7 Costanza"). And perhaps more relevant to today's parents, you can name your newborn “John William Turner III,” but not “John William Turner 3.”
- Length restrictions: Some states explicitly limit the length of names due to "technological limitations associated with its electronic data." In Massachusetts, for example, the full name is limited to a total of 40 characters. It is my dream that some day we will live in a world so technologically advanced that my children's children can have names of an unlimited number of characters.
- Prohibitions on Diacritical Marks: In California, the Office of Vital Records handbook states that a name can only be made up of "the 26 alphabetical characters of the English language." That means no pictographs, ideograms, or diacritical marks” such as “é,” “ñ,” and “ç” are allowed. No way, José!
There are other issues to examine -- what about name choice? Is the right to name your child "“Dumb Motherf*cker” protected by the Constitution, Larson asks? What about other bizarre names handed down to children through the years, such as:
- “Preserved Fish”
- “Encyclopedia Britannia”
- “States Rights”
- "Emancipation Proclamation”
- “Trailing Arbutus Vines"
- “Number 16 Bus Shelter”
- “Toilet Queen”
Larson's paper dives into the suprisingly deep pool of baby name law to deliver what he believes is the "first law review article to address comprehensively the existing prohibitions on parental naming rights." Check out the full article here.
Posted by Bruce Carton on January 28, 2011 at 05:12 PM | Permalink
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