ACLU-TN Lawsuit Protects Parents' Right to Name Their Children

Affiliate: ACLU of Tennessee
October 9, 2014 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Tennessee
Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

Tennessee Law Violates First Amendment

October 9, 2014

CONTACT: 212-549-2666,

NASHVILLE – In an effort to protect Tennessee parents’ First Amendment right to name their own children, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLU-TN) today filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of a Brentwood family.

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 Nevada and California, share this last name. However this past summer, when their third child was born in Tennessee, the state Department of Health denied their request to use the name and issued a birth certificate for the child with the last name “Abramson.”

“Parents have a fundamental right to make decisions for their children,” said ACLU-TN cooperating attorney Carolyn W. Schott of Sherrard & Roe PLC. “Naming our own children is not only a very personal decision, it’s also an act of free expression, protected by the U.S. and Tennessee Constitutions.”

ACLU-TN filed the lawsuit, Abramson et. al. v. Dreyzehner et. al., in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee today.

“Like all parents, we thought long and hard about what we wanted to name our kids,” said Sarubbi. “The name Sabr reflects both our individual families and the union of those families through our marriage and our kids.”

“As two states have already recognized with our older children, we have the right as parents to name our children what we want,” said Abramson. “Our children’s names do not impact the state in any way, but they mean a lot to our family.”

In addition to Schott, the Sabr family is represented by Thomas H. Castelli, ACLU-TN legal director. The plaintiffs are seeking an order from the court declaring this state law unconstitutional.

A copy of the complaint filed today is available here.

To arrange interviews with the Sabr family, or attorneys Carolyn W. Schott or Thomas H. Castelli, please contact Lindsay Kee at or 615-320-7142.

By completing this form, I agree to receive occasional emails per the terms of the ACLU’s privacy policy.

The Latest in Free Speech

ACLU's Vision

The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.

Learn More About Free Speech

Free Speech issue image

Protecting free speech means protecting a free press, the democratic process, diversity of thought, and so much more. The ACLU has worked since 1920 to ensure that freedom of speech is protected for everyone.