Imagine waking up one morning and finding that your county, your local school, and area health care providers no longer recognized you as the mother or father of your teenage child.
It has the hallmarks of an episode of the Twilight Zone, but it was all too real for Anmarie Calgaro, of Cherry, whose transgender minor teen was accepted as emancipated by officials from St. Louis County, ISD 2142, and Fairview Health Services, effectively shutting her out as a parent or guardian for her child.
In Minnesota, only a court can emancipate a child, and only after a thorough examination of the issues and due process for all involved. But that’s not what happened in the Calgaro case.
Instead, a legal aid attorney, after consulting with the child, drafted a letter stating that the child qualified as emancipated. Based on that letter, the county, school district, and health care providers denied Calgaro access to her child’s records and any authority to make or even weigh in on life decisions for the teenager. Calgaro, with the backing of the conservative Thomas More Society, sued the local officials and hospitals in federal court alleging a violation of her due process rights.
The judge, in effect, agreed, but said Calgaro had no legal remedy given longstanding precedents that provide immunity to officials when they act in error, rather than as part of an official policy.
The case has received national media coverage, but much of it has focused on the transgender nature of the child involved. The mother has sought to slow or halt gender reassignment therapy that the child has been receiving, which has prompted much of the media to frame the story as a battle over transgender rights.
While that may have been a major factor in the rift that developed between the mother and her child, it has little or nothing to do with the issue at hand. Parents and older children frequently differ on a wide range of issues. There are few teenagers who probably didn’t wish at one time or another that they could strike out on their own. It comes with the age and the hormones.
This is really a case about due process, and how parents can defend their rights when public agencies or private health care providers violate them. It shouldn’t take a federal case, and, based on the lower court ruling, the federal courts may lack the ability to provide relief in a case like Anmarie Calgaro’s anyway.
Currently, no Minnesota statute provides public agencies clear guidance on how to proceed in such a case, nor a means for a parent who has been denied his or her rights the ability to address the matter in state court. That’s a problem that only the Legislature can remedy.
This may be an unusual case, but no parent should face the nightmare experienced by Anmarie Calgaro. Her views on her child’s transgender status are irrelevant. She has the same legal rights of any parent, and the Legislature should work to ensure this kind of thing never happens again.