The parents of a 22-month-old child are battling the state of Georgia over their daughter’s last name.
Elizabeth Handy and Bilal Walk say that the Georgia Department of Health refused to give a birth certificate to their infant daughter with the last name “Allah,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The state of Georgia, on the other hand, says that their daughter’s name, ZalyKha Graceful Lorraina Allah, does not follow state law that requires the child’s last name to be Handy, Walk, or a combination of the two.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia has stepped in to represent the couple, who say they cannot get a Social Security number for their daughter because she has no birth certificate and could potentially face issues with traveling, health care access, and enrolling in schools.
“We have to make sure that the state isn’t overstepping their boundaries,” Walk said. “It is just plainly unfair and a violation of our rights.”
Lawyers representing the Department of Public Health say that Georgia state law “requires that a baby’s surname be either that of the father of the mother for purposes of the initial birth record.”
Once the birth record is created, the parents can petition the superior court to change ZalyKha’s surname, according to general counsel Sidney Barrett.
ACLU Georgia Executive Director Andrea Young argues that the state’s decision is an example of government overreach that violates the First and 14th Amendments.
The couple also claims that they were able to get a birth certificate for their 3-year-old son named Masterful Allah without a problem.
Lawyers for Handy and Walk say the couple has been unable to obtain Medicaid coverage and food stamps through the SNAP program.
The couple said they wanted to name their child Allah because it was a “noble” name and denied that it was for religious reasons.
“Simply put, we have a personal understanding that we exercise in regards to the names,” Walk said. “It is nothing that we want to go into detail about, because it is not important. What is important is the language of the statute and our rights as parents.”
This is not the first time the state has rejected a request to name a child after a religious figure.
A Tennessee judge rejected a family’s request to name their son “Messiah” in 2014 because she believed Messiah could only describe Jesus Christ and placed an “undue burden” on the child that he could not fulfill. That judge was later fired, and the judge’s decision was overturned.