Dutchman loses bid for legal age change

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The 69-year-old Dutchman who wanted two decades legally slashed off his age has lost in court, but he said he planned to appeal.

Emile Ratelband petitioned the District Court of Gelderland last month to make the change to his birth certificate, saying that he feels younger than his age and that doctors agreed with his appraisal that he is in his 40s. He also said that because of his age, he has been discriminated against, including on dating services and on financing applications.

Ratelband said that the request is a matter of free will and that it is akin to asking a court to change a registered name or gender. The court in Ratelband’s hometown of Arnhem, located about 100kms southeast of Amsterdam, said that the situation is different.

The court was not swayed to create new case law in line with the statutory provisions on changes to a person’s officially registered name or gender, it said in a statement. “Unlike the situation with respect to a change in registered name or gender, there are a variety of rights and duties related to age, such as the right to vote and the duty to attend school. If Mr Ratelband’s request was allowed, those age requirements would become meaningless,” it said.

The court also did not find that feeling younger and healthier is a valid argument for changing a birth date. Ratelband also did not sufficiently prove he has suffered from age discrimination, and if he did, there are alternatives to changing a person’s date of birth, the court said.

The court also rejected his argument that the request is a matter of free will.

“Free will does not extend so far as to make every desired outcome legally possible. Mr Ratelband is at liberty to feel 20 years younger than his real age and to act accordingly. But amending his date of birth would cause 20 years of records to vanish from the register of births, deaths, marriages and registered partnerships. This would have a variety of undesirable legal and societal implications. The priority must be to ensure that the public registers contain accurate factual information,” the court said.

Ratelband told NPR that the reaction of the judges is “fantastic” and “great,” because his team has a strategy that includes addressing the specific reasons given by the court to reject his request. He said that his appeal will likely be heard in the coming months.

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