6 Questions You Have About Transgender Rights in North Carolina (Updated 2021)
Over the last few years, conversations around transgender rights in North Carolina have been occurring more frequently and amongst a greater audience. Attention has been largely focused on the controversial “Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act,” commonly known as HB2 or “the bathroom bill”, and it has opened the door for confusion and fear around the legal rights of transgender individuals in our state.
To help clear a few things up, we are answering some of the most common questions we receive, followed by a timeline of the controversial bathroom bill.
Can I change my name and gender on my birth certificate in NC?
In short, yes. However, NC requires certain conditions are met and proof furnished to change your gender on your birth certificate. It is important to note that, currently, NC will only issue a gender change on your birth certificate or driver’s license if you have completed gender reassignment surgery.
To change your name and gender on your birth certificate, you must submit a written request to the NC registrar that is accompanied by proof of your transition. Here is what is needed:
- Handwritten request that lists the changes you would like to be made to your birth certificate;
- Completed section 2 of the Application for a Birth Certificate, filling out the “other” section as “gender change”;
- If you have changed your name, you must include a certified copy of the court-ordered name change;
- A notarized letter from your physician stating that you have completed surgical gender affirmation procedures or, if you changed your gender through an out-of-state court, a certified copy of a court-ordered gender change;
- A check to cover the applicable fees for a name change, gender change, and issuance of a new birth certificate; the fees are listed on the application.
Once these conditions have been met, you will be issued a new birth certificate.
Changing your name on your driver’s license only requires that you’ve legally changed your name with the Social Security Administration (SSA) prior and that the name you request perfectly matches the name used by the SSA. Documented proof from the courts or Register of Deeds that the name change was officially accomplished is required to complete a name change on your driver’s license.
Changing your gender on your driver’s license only requires that a healthcare provider attest to your current gender identity on a form you can get from NC DMV. You no longer need to show proof of surgery to update your gender marker on a NC driver’s license or state ID. You can complete the name change and gender marker update at the same time at DMV if it’s more convenient, provided you complete all the required forms for both.
How do I legally change my name?
In NC, you must petition the court to change your name and follow a specific filing process. This process can take a while and does include a fair amount of paperwork.
The process begins when you fill out the Notice of Intent to File Name Change form and submit it to the Clerk of Court. This notice will be posted in the courthouse for 10 consecutive days.
While you are waiting, there are a few additional items you need to obtain before you can move forward. First, you’ll need to have your fingerprints taken at the Sheriff’s Department, which will need to be submitted with your request for background checks.
Next, you will need to obtain a copy of your criminal history record through the State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) and request your criminal record check, also known as an Identity History Summary Check, from the FBI.
After your notice has been up for the full 10 days, find the posting (check with your local courthouse) and take it to the Clerk of Court with the following documents:
- Your SBI & FBI criminal record check summaries
- Notarized Petition for Name Change
- Two notarized Affidavits of Character from residents of your county who are not related to you
- Notarized Affidavit Regarding Outstanding Tax or Child Support Obligation
- Certified copy of your birth certificate
- Proof of ID, such as a driver’s license, state ID card, or passport
- Proof of residency, which may be any official documents with your name and current address (utility bills, etc.)
- Filing fee payment
How does legally changing my name impact other legal documents?
Once you have obtained a legal name change, you will need to also change your name on both public and private records. This includes everything from your social security card and driver’s license to your medical information and car insurance. Here are a few examples of items to adjust and agencies you will need to notify of your name change:
- Social Security card
- Driver’s license
- Post office/mailing address
- Voter registration
- Personal and business bank accounts
- Credit cards
- Insurance companies
- Retirement plans
- State Tax Authority
You will also need to consider any estate planning documents you may have—such as your will, power of attorney, guardianship, healthcare directives, and trusts—to ensure that nothing becomes void when your name is changed. The best way to ensure all of your bases are covered is to work closely with your estate planning attorney. If you’re in the Asheville or WNC area, our experienced estate planning attorneys can help you keep your documents up-to-date through all of life’s changes.
Will my ability to receive inheritance from my parents be affected by my name change?
When you legally change your name on your birth certificate, you are not altering the legally-recognized identity of your parents or your relationship to them. There is an official “paper trail” of your name change, which means that your rights to your inheritance are not invalidated.
If you have any questions about your rights of inheritance, your best option is to speak to your attorney or the attorney who prepared your parents’ documents.
For additional questions, we recommend browsing Equality NC’s list of local LGBT organizations and advocacy groups. There are a number of resources available for support and information.
Now, let’s dive into the history of NC’s infamous “bathroom bill”.
The North Carolina bathroom bill (HB2)
The Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, aka House Bill “HB” 2 or the “bathroom bill”, has a contentious history both in NC and the rest of the country. Passed as a way to legally require people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their sex, HB2 was seen by many as a means of discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals. While Governor Cooper soon took office after the bill was passed and enacted legislation barring the implementation of the bill (HB142), the right to use the bathroom you identify with remains murky to this day.
*Note that sex refers to an individual’s biological attributes and is listed on their birth certificate, while gender is a socially-constructed system used to categorize personal characteristics and identity, and can be fluid.
Timeline of North Carolina’s bathroom bill
In 2016, the city of Charlotte adopted an ordinance which would allow transgender persons the right to access the bathroom that corresponded to their gender identity.
In 2017, the state passed HB2 in reaction to Charlotte’s ordinance. HB2 required individuals in government buildings and other publicly owned structures—including highway rest stops, schools, and universities—to only use bathrooms that correspond to their sex, and prevented cities and counties from enacting any new anti-discrimination policies.
HB2 was seen by many outside of NC as blatantly discriminant against transgender peoples and ended up costing the state millions of dollars in lost revenue from companies either leaving the state, canceling plans to relocate to the state, or canceling plans to expand within the state. Many major TV and movie studios chose other areas of the country to shoot in, and musicians like Demi Lovato and Bruce Springsteen boycotted performing in NC. Additionally, state and local governments across the country barred their employees from non-essential travel to NC.
Facing the loss of billions of dollars, NC passed HB 142 in 2017, thus repealing HB2; however, it still allowed the state government to have control over transgender bathroom access and halted local anti-discrimination rules through December 1, 2020. It also prevented states and municipalities from creating their own rules around bathroom use in publicly-owned buildings without the General Assembly’s consent.
HB142 was largely seen as a failure by the newly-instated Governor Roy Cooper, who had heavily campaigned on transgender rights.
In 2019, a federal judge in NC approved a settlement that prohibited the state government from banning transgender people from using bathrooms that match their gender identity in state buildings.
HB142’s ban on cities enacting non-discrimination rules for local businesses in North Carolina expired on December 1, 2020.
Now that much of HB142’s provisions have expired, many lawmakers and civil rights groups across the state are preparing for what will happen next. President Biden has promised to push for passage of the Equality Act, which would protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations, including bathrooms.
Craig Associates PC is here for you
Asheville attorney Chris Craig and his team are available to help and support you as you consider the legal logistics of your transition. We have many years of experience working with the Asheville LGBTQ+ community, with a focus on estate planning, adoption, and family law. We would love to meet with you to discuss your needs and any questions you may have. Contact us online or call (828) 258-2888 for more information.