The State of North Carolina is being sued for an antiquated and discriminatory policy requiring transgender people to have undergone “sex reassignment surgery” in order for them to obtain an accurate birth certificate reflecting who they are. 

“It’s dehumanizing and demoralizing being denied a birth certificate that reflects who I am,” says plaintiff Lillith Campos, a transgender woman who lives in Jacksonville, North Carolina, where she serves as the Vice Chair at the Onslow County LGBTQ Community Center. 

“I cannot afford surgery and do not have access to surgery through my health insurance. It is wrong for North Carolina to require that I obtain surgery in order for them to recognize me as the woman I am. As a trans woman, having incorrect documentation makes me feel like a second-class citizen because I am denied the same rights as the rest of the population. It just makes me feel like I am ‘less than’ before the eyes of the state.”

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina by Lambda Legal and a legal team 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. Campos, C.B., and M.D. were all born in North Carolina but are unable to obtain a birth certificate accurately reflecting their identity due to the state’s surgical requirement.

“Birth certificates are essential and foundational identity documents critical for people navigating life. North Carolina’s policy explicitly requiring transgender people have surgery to affirm their identity is not only discriminatory but arbitrary and inconsistent with standard medical practice. This discriminatory requirement presents a significant barrier, sometimes insurmountable, to many transgender people, particularly those who may not be able to afford gender confirmation surgery, or who may not want or need it,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Senior Attorney and Health Care Strategist at Lambda Legal. “North Carolina is out of step with the rest of America and trails behind the majority of states that permit transgender persons to correct the sex designation on their birth certificates without a surgical requirement.” 

The lawsuit argues that denying transgender North Carolinians the ability to obtain accurate birth certificates unless they undergo ”sex reassignment surgery” discriminates against them on the basis of sex and transgender status, invades their privacy, and violates their rights to liberty and medical autonomy. In addition, the lawsuit argues that forcing transgender people to hold essential documentation with an inaccurate sex designation infringes on their free speech under the First Amendment, and also prevents transgender people from accurately expressing their gender identity. 

North Carolina’s surgical requirement also stands in contrast to North Carolina’s own policy permitting transgender persons to correct the sex designation on their driver’s licenses and state identification cards to accurately reflect their sex, consistent with their gender identity, without any requirement that they undergo surgical procedures. 

In addition to Lambda Legal, the team of attorneys representing the plaintiffs include Baker Botts LLP and Brooks Pierce McLendon Humphrey & Leonard LLP.