Court rules girl has right to use her given name

Court rules girl has right to use her given name
In this Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012 photo, Blaer Bjarkardottir, 15, left, and her mother, Bjork Eidsdottir, are photographed in front of a pond in Reykjavik. (AP Photo/Anna Andersen)
REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) - A 15-year-old Icelandic girl has been granted the right to legally use the name given to her by her mother, despite the opposition of authorities.

A court ruled Thursday that the name "Blaer" can be used. It means "gentle breeze."

The decision overturns an earlier rejection by Icelandic authorities who declared it was not a proper feminine name. Until now, Blaer Bjarkardottir had been identified simply as "Girl" in communications with officials.

Like a handful of other countries, including Germany and Denmark, Iceland has official rules about what a baby can be named. In a country comfortable with a firm state role, most people don't question the Personal Names Register, a list of 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names that fit Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules and that officials maintain will protect children from embarrassment. Parents can take from the list or apply to a special committee that has the power to say yea or nay.

In Blaer's case, her mother said she learned the name wasn't on the register only after the priest who baptized the child later informed her he had mistakenly allowed it.

"I had no idea that the name wasn't on the list, the famous list of names that you can choose from," Bjork Eidsdottir said in an interview earlier this month, adding she knew a Blaer whose name was accepted in 1973.

Bjork Eidsdottir had fought for the right for the name to be recognized. Blaer told the court she had no problems with her name.

Given names are even more significant in tiny Iceland that in many other countries: Everyone is listed in the phone book by their first names. Surnames are based on a parent's given name. Even the president, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, is addressed simply as Olafur.

Blaer had been identified as "Stulka" - or "girl" - on all her official documents, which led to years of frustration as she has had to explain the whole story at the bank, renewing her passport and dealing with the country's bureaucracy.

Her mother's suit marked the first time someone challenged an Icelandic names committee decision in court.