RALEIGH, N.C. — Legislation currently being considered in the North Carolina Senate could make it more difficult for LGBT citizens to change their names.

Many same-sex couples seek official name changes in forming their families and are forced to do so outside of current marriage laws since their relationships are not recognized by the state. Individuals who are undergoing gender transition also seek name changes.

Reps. Paul Stam (R-Wake), Timothy Spear (D-Chowan, Dare) and Shirley Randleman (R-Wilkes) are the bill‘s primary sponsors in the state House. Their proposal would require those seeking official name changes to present certified copies of official state and national criminal background checks and to sign a sworn statement indicating whether the name-change applicant has outstanding tax or child support payments. Applicants whose name-change orders are denied would have 30 days to appeal the decision to superior court. No appeal is allowed above the superior court judge and applicants would be barred from submitting another request for 12 months.

Charlotte attorney Connie Vetter is opposed to the legislation. She said the proposed changes are a “solution in want of a problem” and could have an adverse effect on many of her clients.

“If these changes are adopted they will succeed in making it significantly more difficult for my gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender clients to change their names,” Vetter told qnotes. “The new requirements are onerous to say the least and the appeal time of 30 days is short. Some people who seek to change their names don’t have a lot of money and 30 days to file an appeal may preclude them from being able to appeal at all.”

Ian Palmquist, executive director of statewide LGBT advocacy and education group Equality North Carolina, said his organization has been following the legislation. The bill was originally requested by the state clerks’ association.

“The main motivation was to avoid name changes being done and inadvertently making it easier for someone with a criminal background to avoid notice,” he said. “We are concerned that some clerks will think that any sort of criminal history would preclude someone getting a name change even if that name change was for a valid reason. We’re also concerned about the limitation on the ability to appeal.””

The legislation has already passed the House, where it received nearly unanimous approval. Palmquist anticipates the bill will pass in the Senate, though he noted there might opportunities to adjust the bill’s language and limit burdens for people who have legitimate reasons to change their names.

The legislation has been referred to and is awaiting action by the state Senate’s Judiciary II Committee.

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.