FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 24, 2015
CONTACT: Lindsay Kee, ACLU-TN communications director, 615-320-7142
NASHVILLE – In a victory for free speech and parents’ right to make decisions for their children, the Tennessee Department of Health has agreed to allow a Brentwood family to give their child the surname of their choice, settling a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee.
“Parents have a basic right to make decisions for their own children without government interference, as well as a First Amendment right to free expression,” said ACLU-TN cooperating attorney Carolyn W. Schott of Sherrard & Roe PLC. “We are pleased that the Sabr family can now exercise their right to name their child as they see fit.”
When Dr. Carl Abramson and Kimberly Sarubbi married, they decided to keep their last names for personal and professional reasons. However, when their first child was born, they did not want her to share a last name with only one parent, nor did they want to hyphenate their names. Ultimately they determined that a combination of the beginning letters of both of their last names, Sabr, would be the best surname for their children. Their first two children, born in two other states, share this last name. However in the summer of 2014, when their third child was born in Tennessee, the Tennessee Department of Health denied their request to use the name and issued a birth certificate for the child with the last name “Abramson.”
“The last name ‘Sabr’ is very significant to our family,” Sarubbi said. “The name reflects both who Carl and I are as individuals and how we come together as a family through our marriage and our kids. It’s very important to us that our children share this last name.”
“We have the right as parents to name our children what we want,” said Abramson. “We couldn’t be happier that we finally have a birth certificate that reflects our son’s true last name.”
ACLU-TN filed the lawsuit, Abramson et. al. v. Dreyzehner et. al., in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee on October 9, 2014. In addition to Schott, the Sabr family was represented by Thomas H. Castelli, ACLU-TN legal director.
In accordance with the settlement, the Tennessee Office of Vital Records has issued a birth certificate for the child that includes the last name “Sabr,” as the Sabr family had requested at the time of the child’s birth.
A copy of the original complaint is available here.