Today Baker Botts L.L.P., Lambda Legal, and Brooks Pierce McLendon Humphrey & Leonard LLP filed a federal lawsuit challenging a North Carolina statute that requires transgender people born in North Carolina to undergo surgery as a prerequisite to correcting the gender marker on their birth certificates. North Carolina is among a minority of states that require proof of surgery for gender marker changes on birth certificates. In the lawsuit—Campos v. Cohen—Baker Botts argues that the state’s surgical requirement violates constitutional rights to equal protection, due process, and free speech.
The Baker Botts team representing plaintiffs in Campos v. Cohen is led by Derek McDonald, Maddy Dwertman, and Brandt Thomas Roessler. The team also includes Puneet Kohli, Nick Palmieri, Margaret Wittenmyer, and Elisabeth Butler. “The state’s surgical requirement infringes upon transgender persons’ fundamental constitutional rights to privacy and bodily autonomy. Trans persons should not be required to furnish proof of having undergone any medical procedure in order to obtain essential government-issued identity documents that accurately reflect their sex, consistent with their gender identity.” said Maddy Dwertman. “For some trans North Carolinians, surgery is too expensive, medically contraindicated, or simply unwanted,” Brandt Thomas Roessler added. “We are eager to secure equal access to accurate identity documents for all trans North Carolinians.”
The plaintiffs in Campos v. Cohen are an adult woman, Lillith Campos, and two teenage minors. Each of the plaintiffs has endured harassment and discrimination throughout their lives, ranging from being excluded from playing in team sports to being forced to use bathroom facilities separate and apart from their peers. North Carolina’s prohibition against issuing plaintiffs accurate birth certificates only amplifies the discrimination plaintiffs endure.
Baker Botts is proud to support Lambda Legal, the United States’ oldest and largest legal organization working on behalf of LGBTQ people and everyone living with HIV. “Baker Botts is grateful for the opportunity to serve as co-counsel again with Lambda Legal and looks forward to advancing the civil rights of transgender North Carolinians,” said Derek McDonald. “This engagement reflects a strengthening of Baker Botts’s long-standing commitment to pro bono and a further expansion of our advocacy for LGBTQ civil rights.”
More information regarding the Campos v. Cohen lawsuit can be found in Lambda Legal’s press release, here.
This lawsuit reflects Baker Botts’s second co-counsel engagement with Lambda Legal. Baker Botts and Lambda Legal also represent plaintiffs in Gore v. Lee, a federal lawsuit challenging Tennessee’s policy that categorically prohibits transgender people from correcting the gender marker on their birth certificates. Thanks to the efforts of Lambda Legal and others, Tennessee is the last remaining state with such a categorical exclusion.
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