Victory! North Carolina to Issue Accurate Birth Certificates for Transgender People Without Requiring Surgery

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June 23, 2022

Transgender people born in North Carolina will now be able to correct the gender marker on their birth certificates without the need for surgery under a consent judgment issued today by a federal court as a result of a lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal.

“I’m pleased to see this day happening, that the State of North Carolina now must recognize us for who we are. It was outrageous and dehumanizing that I was denied a birth certificate just because I didn't have surgery.  We should all agree that everyone deserves accurate and accessible identity documents that allow us to go through life and run errands with safety, dignity and respect,” said plaintiff Lillith Campos, a transgender woman born in North Carolina.

“This is a victory for all transgender people born in North Carolina that will help enable them to navigate life with safety and dignity. We are gratified by North Carolina state officials’ agreement to reverse North Carolina’s policy prohibiting so many transgender people born in North Carolina from having accurate birth certificates. This lawsuit was just the latest step in our nationwide battle to break down barriers for transgender people to access accurate identity documents,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Counsel at Lambda Legal.

Under the consent judgment, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and other state government officials must provide accurate birth certificates that reflect an applicant’s sex, consistent with their gender identity, without having to undergo surgery.

The court-issued judgment sets forth the process by which people born in North Carolina can correct the sex designation on their birth certificates. Specifically, a transgender person born in North Carolina may correct the sex designation on their birth certificate by submitting a sworn statement, accompanied by 1) a passport; 2) a state-issued ID, such a driver’s license; or 3) certification issued by a licensed healthcare professional, social worker or case manager – that confirms the person’s gender identity. More information about when the new process comes into effect will be forthcoming.

Lambda Legal, Baker Botts LLP and Brooks Pierce McLendon Humphrey & Leonard LLP filed the lawsuit in 2021 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina on behalf of three plaintiffs: Lillith Campos, who is an adult, and two minor teenagers: C.B., through his parent Shelley K. Bunting; and M.D., through her parent Katheryn Jenifer. Lillith, C.B., and M.D. were all born in North Carolina but were unable to obtain a birth certificate accurately reflecting their identity due to the state’s discriminatory surgical requirement.

“I’m glad that my daughter will be able to correct and align all her documentation that will allow her to avoid discrimination or exclusion at school, college, sports, or government agencies. No child or family should have to go through this trauma just because the government doesn’t want to recognize transgender people for who they are,” said Katheryn Jenifer, mother of plaintiff M.D.

“I am happy that I will finally have an accurate birth certificate that reflects who I am. Now I don't have to worry about an inaccurate birth certificate causing a difficult or unsafe situation for me in the future.  It is great to know that North Carolina respects me and other trans people for who we are,” said 17-year-old plaintiff C.B.  

According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, almost one-third of transgender individuals who showed an identity document with a name or gender marker that conflicted with their perceived gender were harassed, denied benefits or services, discriminated against, or assaulted. Transgender individuals also are disproportionately targeted for hate crimes.

In addition to this victory, Lambda Legal has already successfully challenged discriminatory restrictions on transgender people’s ability to obtain accurate birth certificates reflecting who they are in Idaho (FV v. Jeppesen), Kansas (Foster v. Andersen), New York (MHW v. Cuomo), Ohio (Ray v. McCloud), and Puerto Rico (Arroyo v. Rossello).  Challenges to Tennessee’s (Gore v. Lee) and Oklahoma’s (Fowler v. Stitt) discriminatory policies are currently pending in federal courts in those states. Lambda Legal has also successfully challenged discriminatory policies pertaining to other forms of identification, such as driver’s licenses (Saba v. Cuomo) in New York and U.S. passports (Zzyym v. Pompeo).

Handling the case on behalf of Lambda Legal are Counsel Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Senior Attorney Carl S. Charles, and Staff Attorney Avatara Smith-Carrington. They are joined by pro-bono co-counsel Derek McDonald, Maddy Dwertman, and Brandt Roessler of Baker Botts LLP, and Sarah M. Saint and Eric M. David of Brooks, Pierce, Mclendon, Humphrey & Leonard, LLP.


Read more about the case here: https://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/cases/campos-v-cohen

Read the consent judgment here: https://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/campos_nc_20220622_judgment