Republish
Reprint

ATLANTA — ZalyKha Graceful Lorraina Allah finally has a name.

After a 23-month battle, the state of Georgia has finally issued a birth certificate in that name, after initially rejecting the family's request because the last name did not match that of either parent.

Elizabeth Handy and Bilal Walk sued the state over the right to name their daughter — born May 25, 2015 — whatever they wanted.

And now the state has relented.

"This is an important vindication of parental rights and a long-overdue victory for Elizabeth and Bilal," said ACLU of Georgia Executive Director Andrea Young.

Young and Handy, who live in Atlanta, are not Muslims and said they chose ZalyKha's name for its nobility. And indeed, Muslims likely would take offense at their choice.

Plemon El-Amin, iman emeritus of the Atlanta Masjid, said Thursday a Muslim would never name a child "Allah," and would have advised the family against doing so.

El Amin said that because Muslims believe there is no God but Allah, any name that contains "Allah" must have a prefix meaning "servant or creation of Allah." (Hence the common Arabic name "Abdullah: "abd" or "servant" combined with Allah, "God" or "the Supreme Being.")

"To use the word Allah by itself creates confusion that someone else is saying that they are God. Not a creation of God," El Amin said. "The way they are using it, yes it can be considered offensive. From an Islamic standpoint, there is only one God."

The ACLU filed suit against the state in March arguing that the decision not to allow "ZalyKha Graceful Lorraina Allah" was an example of government overreach and a violation of the First and 14th Amendments.

It also argued that without a birth certificate, the couple would not be able to receive medical coverage under Medicaid, obtain food stamps or even enroll their daughter in school.

Now that the Georgia Department of Public Health has reversed course and issued a birth certificate, the ACLU has filed a motion with the court to dismiss its suit.

Young also praised Handy and Walk for "their courage in stepping forward and fighting for the rights of all parents to name and raise their children as they wish."

"No one wants to live in a world where the government can dictate what you can and cannot name your child," Young continued. "It goes against our values, the Legislature's intent, and the plain language of the law."

In an email, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Health said the agency does not comment on legal matters.

Handy and Walk, who had been out of town, did not attend an ACLU briefing Thursday morning. They have been unavailable for comment.

The parents have said the last name didn't have any particular religious connotation for them.

Rather, it was a name that signified nobility. In addition, Handy and Walk have a 3-year-old son who was given a birth certificate for his name, Masterful Allah, with no problem.

In initially rejecting the name ZalyKha Graceful Lorraina Allah, the state said "Allah" as a last name doesn't match that of the parents. It said ZalyKha's last name should either be Handy, Walk or a combination of the two.

State officials went on to write that once the state had accepted a name and put it on a birth certificate, the family had the right to change it in court later.