In the name of Allah? Family challenges state on daughter’s name

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In the name of Allah? Family challenges state on daughter’s name

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The ACLU of Georgia has filed suit on behalf of parents Elizabeth Handy and Bilal Walk, who were denied when they tried to name their daughter SalyKha Graceful Lorraina Allah. This redacted copy of the birth certificate application was Exhibit A in the lawsuit. (Fulton County Superior Court)

An Atlanta family is at odds with the state over their right to give their daughter the last name of their choosing.

Elizabeth Handy and Bilal Walk, claim that Georgia officials are refusing to grant their daughter — ZalyKha Graceful Lorraina Allah – a birth certificate. With the backing of the ACLU of Georgia, they are suing the state on the grounds that they are being denied basic benefits.

With the state’s decision, lawyers for the couple say they have not been able to receive medical coverage under Medicaid and are prevented from obtaining food stamps through the SNAP program.

“Government has no business telling parents what they can and cannot name their children,” said ACLU of Georgia Executive Director, Andrea Young. 

“Elizabeth and Bilal jumped through every bureaucratic hoop that’s required to obtain a birth certificate for their daughter, but officials at the Department of Public Health refused to record the birth certificate with the name of their choice. “

State officials, however, said the child’s name — ZalyKha Graceful Lorraina Allah — does not fit the naming conventions set up by state law. They say that ZalyKha’s last name should either be Handy, Walk or a combination of the two. In a letter to the family, state officials also suggest that once an official birth record is created, ZalyKha’s surname can be changed through a petition to superior court.

ZalyKha was born May 25, 2015. They said they gave her the name because it was “noble,” and it has nothing to do with religion. Allah is the name for God, the Supreme Being, in the Arabic language.

“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.”

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