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Know Your Rights: Trans Rights in Rhode Island

Transgender Rights | ID Documents |Rhode Island

TRANSGENDER RIGHTS text

GLAD has an ID Transgender Project that provides free resources for transgender people living in New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island or Vermont) seeking to update their legal name and gender on federal and state identification documents.

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In many cases, you can update these documents without the assistance of a lawyer using the information below. If you do need help, see the question below:

Where can I get help changing my name and gender on various ID documents?

 

How do I obtain a legal name change in Rhode Island?

Luckily for Rhode Islanders who wish to make a name change, there are relatively few steps involved in this process compared to most states. Furthermore, the State’s statutes are quite lenient when it comes to naming change laws. Judges are quick to approve name change petitions and sometimes will even sign a name change decree without having the petitioner attend a court hearing.

Step 1 – Complete Name Change Petition

Download the Name Change Petition (Form PC-8.1) and enter all the appropriate
information except for your signature – this must be done in the presence of a notary.
The Decree section at the bottom of the form will be filled out by the judge if the name
change is approved.

Step 2 – Have the Petition Notarized

The Petition must be signed in front of a notary public. You can ask your city or town
clerk for a referral, or even visit your bank. (If you have a personal account you may not
be charged a notarization fee.)

Step 3 – File Petition

Attach a copy of your birth certificate to Form PC-8.1 and visit your local city or town
clerk/probate court to file your petition. The fees involved in filing a name change
petition vary by city/town, but it is usually less than $100. The court clerk will provide a
date for you to come back to the courthouse and either attend a hearing or pick up your
signed decree. This date is usually about thirty (30) days from the filing date.

 

Step 4 – Background Check

Once the petition has been filed, a Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) report may be
required; visit your city or town clerk to learn how this is handled. Some courts may
have local law enforcement do the BCI check, or one may be requested through the RI
Attorney General’s Office. After receiving the BCI report, attach it to the petition so the
judge can look it over.

Step 5 – Publish Notice (If Applicable)

There is no law that requires you to publish a notice declaring your name change in
your local newspaper; however, the court where you filed your petition may require that
you do so. Ask the court clerk if this is a necessary step and, if it is, find out whether the
court will advertise on your behalf or if you must contact a local newspaper yourself.

Notify them of your current name and proposed name change so they can run an ad in
their next issue. Ask them to send you proof of publication so you can bring it to your
court date.

We suggest you ask the court to waive this requirement to protect your privacy.

Step 6 – Attend Hearing

Unless the judge has already signed the decree approving your name change, you will
be asked to visit the courthouse again to attend a hearing in front of the judge. (Bring
proof of publication, if applicable.) The judge may ask you a couple of questions, or they
may just want you to give an official statement. If they grant the change of name, they
will sign the Decree section of the Petition Form. Have the clerk make certified copies of
the Decree so you can change your name on any legal documentation.

Name Change for a Minor

A name change for a minor follows the steps above, but both parents must consent to the name change. Judges may consider whether to grant a name change for a minor according to what is in the ‘best interests of the child’.

They typically evaluate the best interest of the child by looking at a variety of factors, which may include the child’s preference (taking into consideration their age and experience), the length of time a child has used that name, the difficulties, harassment, or embarrassment a child may experience from the present or proposed name, and the motives or interests of the parent.

To demonstrate that the name change is in the best interests of the child, along with the name change petition you may want to submit evidence showing the judge why this is in the child’s best interest. Examples of such evidence would be letters from teachers, family, or friends confirming their use of preferred name, letters from providers confirming the child’s gender identity, etc.

 

How do I change the name and gender on my Rhode Island driver’s license?

Here are the instructions for changing name and gender on a Rhode Island driver’s license or identification card: https://dmv.ri.gov/licenses-permits-ids/drivers- licenses/name-address-change.

If you are changing your name, you must first change it on your Social Security card. It will take at least 24 hours for changes at Social Security to become effective for the DMV to process your transaction.

You must complete the following form: file:///C:/Users/gsbwb/Downloads/license-app-with-checklist-2022-01-28.pdf and go in person to your local DMV office with the
completed application and the required documentation, which for a non-REAL ID includes:

● If you’re changing your name, a certified name change order from a court (it
doesn’t need to be a Rhode Island court) and a Social Security card with your
new name.
● If you’re changing your gender you must submit a completed Gender Designation
form: https://dmv.ri.gov/sites/g/files/xkgbur556/files/documents/forms/license/gender_d. You can self-attest your gender, and so you don’t need a letter from a medical provider. Also, Rhode Island allows you to choose “M,” “F,” or a non-binary “X.”
● One document from the “Proof of Identity Document List.”
● Two documents from the “Proof of Residency Document List.”

NOTE: Beginning May 3, 2023, if you want to use a state ID to fly domestically or enter a federal building, it will need to be a REAL ID. In addition to the requirements above, to get a REAL ID your “Proof of Identity Document” must also show that you are either a U.S. citizen, Permanent Resident or have some other proof of lawful residence. Here is the list of permissible documents: file:///C:/Users/gsbwb/Downloads/real-id-
identification-documents-checklist-2021-12.pdf. For more information about obtaining a
RI REAL ID, see: https://dmv.ri.gov/licenses-permits-ids/real-id.

If I was born in Rhode Island, how do I change the name and gender on my birth certificate?

To change your name on a Rhode Island Birth Certificate:

o Download the Application for a Certified Copy of a Birth Record here.

o Box 1: Fill in all requested information. After “New name if changed in
court”, fill in with your current legal name.
o Box 2: Indicate that you are requesting your own birth certificate.
o Box 3 asks “Why do you need this record?”. Check the “other use” box
and specify you are seeking to have the name on your birth certificate
updated to match your court ordered name change.

● Name change court order (certified copy)
o This is the official name change order you received from your local
probate court.
o You must provide the Office of Vital Records with a certified copy, not a
photocopy. This document will eventually be mailed back to you after your
request is processed.
● Photocopy of a form of photo ID
o Accepted forms of photo IDs can include your driver’s license, state ID,
US passport, military ID, certificate of naturalization, or alien registration
form.
● Payment ($35.00):
o $10.00 to process the change to your birth certificate
o $25.00 to mail you an updated version of your birth certificate
o Payment can be made by check or money order, payable to “General
Treasurer of RI”.

To update the gender marker on a Rhode Island Birth Certificate to “M,” “F,” or non-binary “X”:

You will need to contact the Office of Vital Records to prepare an affidavit for you. This can be done at the same time as updating the name on your RI birth certificate. As of March 2021, medical documentation is no longer required to update the gender marker on your RI birth certificate.

Contact the Office of Vital Records by phone or by email:

By phone: (401) 222-5339
By email: melissa.wilson@health.ri.gov

Inform the Office of Vital Records you are seeking to change the gender marker on your
RI birth certificate and that you are requesting an affidavit.

● Tell them the gender marker currently on your birth certificate and the gender
marker you are seeking to change to.
● Give them key biographical information, including name at birth, updated legal
name, date of birth, and place of birth.

A sample script for email or phone call is provided below:

Hello,

I am seeking to change the gender marker in the sex field on my Rhode Island birth certificate from (M/F) to (M/F/X). I am writing to request that your office prepare an affidavit for me to sign to initiate this process.

My key biographical information is:

Legal Name:
Name at Birth:
Date of Birth:
Place of Birth:

Please contact me at (phone number) or (email address) with any questions.

Thank you.

After this request, the Office of Vital Records will prepare a formal affidavit for you. They will send you a copy via email or mail.

Where can I get help changing my name and gender on various ID documents?

The Transgender ID Document Project is a joint project of GLAD, Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC), and law firms Ropes & Gray LLP and Goodwin. It matches a resident from any of the six New England states with a pro bono (free) attorney at one of these law firms. However, because of the popularity of the program, it may be several weeks before you are contacted by an attorney from one of these firms. For more information and to apply for the Project, go to: https://www.glad.org/id/.

However, in most cases, by using the information and forms provided here, you can
update these documents fairly easily on your own without the assistance of an attorney.

Resources

Details about changing name and gender on various ID documents:
https://www.transvoteri.com/id-documents
The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) has an ID Documents Center with information about changing name and gender on state and federal ID documents.

You can find information about Connecticut here:
https://transequality.org/documents/state/rhode-island.

Cases & Advocacy

To see Transgender Rights cases or advocacy which GLAD has been directly involved with in Rhode Island, go to: Cases and Advocacy – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Transgender Rights” and under “By Location” click on “Rhode Island.”

News & Press Releases

To see news and press releases about Transgender Rights in Rhode Island, go to:
News & Press Releases – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Transgender Rights” and under “By Location” click on “Rhode Island.”

Transgender Rights | Health Care |Rhode Island
Transgender Healthcare Rights Q&A

Can health care plans discriminate against LGBTQ+ people?

Under federal and Rhode Island state law, nearly all health plans cannot discriminate on
the basis of sex, and, because the Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton Co.
concluded that all gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination is a form of sex
discrimination, nearly all health plans cannot discriminate against LGBTQ+ people.

What health care plan protections are provided by Rhode Island?

Rhode Island Health Insurance Commissioner

In 2015, the Rhode Island Health Insurance Commissioner issued a bulletin “for the
purpose of advising health insurers 1 , health care providers and consumers of health
insurance that discrimination against an individual in the context of health insurance
because of the individual's gender identity or expression constitutes sex discrimination
prohibited by Rhode Island law. This prohibition extends both to the availability of health
insurance coverage and to the provision of health insurance benefits, including
medically necessary transgender surgery and gender identity or gender dysphoria
related health care services.”

Rhode Island Medicaid

In 2015, Rhode Island’s Medicaid program removed the exclusion of gender-affirming
care. These are the guidelines for gender dysphoria and gender non-conforming health
care: https://eohhs.ri.gov/sites/g/files/xkgbur226/files/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/MA- Providers/MA-Reference-Guides/Physician/gender_dysphoria.pdf.

Are there any health care plans that are not protected under Rhode Island law?

Yes. Medicare and employer health plans that are self-funded (also known as self-
insured) are governed by federal law.

What health care plan protections are provided by the federal government?

Medicare

In 2013, Medicare removed the ban on coverage for treatment of gender dysphoria
because it was “experimental” and began to cover medically necessary treatment for
gender dysphoria.

Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Section 1557 makes it unlawful for any health care provider that receives funding from
the Federal government to refuse to treat an individual – or to otherwise discriminate
against the individual – based on sex (as well as race, color, national origin, age or
disability). Section 1557 imposes similar requirements on health insurance issuers that
receive federal financial assistance. Health care providers and insurers are barred,
among other things, from excluding or adversely treating an individual on any of these
prohibited bases. The Section 1557 final rule applies to recipients of financial assistance
from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Health Insurance
Marketplaces and health programs administered by HHS.

Section 1557 generally does not apply to self-funded group health plans under ERISA
or short-term limited duration plans because the entities offering the plans are typically
not principally engaged in the business of providing health care, nor do they receive
federal financial assistance.

In May 2021, the Biden Administration announced that the Health and Human Services
Office for Civil Rights (OCR) would interpret and enforce Section 1557 of the ACA and
Title IX’s nondiscrimination requirements based on sex to include sexual orientation and
gender identity. The update was made in light of the June 2020 U.S. Supreme Court’s
decision in Bostock v. Clayton County and subsequent court decisions.
In enforcing Section 1557, OCR will comply with the Religious Freedom Restoration
Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb et seq., and all other legal requirements and applicable court
orders that have been issued in litigation involving the Section 1557 regulations.

Title VII

For employers with 15 or more employees, Title VII bans discrimination on the basis of
race, color, religion, sex and national origin in hiring, firing, compensation, and other
terms, conditions or privileges of employment. Employment terms and conditions
include employer-sponsored healthcare benefits. Historically, not all authorities have
agreed that Title VII protects LGBTQ+ workers against discrimination.

However, the Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton Co. changes this because
that ruling made it clear that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination are
forms of sex discrimination. Although the decision is about wrongful employment
termination, it has implications for employer-sponsored health plans and other benefits.
For example, employers may want to adjust group health plan coverage of gender
dysphoria and related services, including gender-affirmation surgeries and review and
compare benefits for same-sex and opposite-sex spouses.

Can religious employers discriminate against LGBTQ+ people?

On July 8, 2020, in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, the United
States Supreme Court reaffirmed its stance on the application of ministerial exception to
employment discrimination cases as established in earlier rulings. In doing so, the Court
simultaneously raised an unanswered issue under Title VII: does the ministerial
exception for religious employers allow those organizations to discriminate against
employees or candidates based on their LGBTQ+ status?

It’s unclear at this point how the Court’s ruling in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v.
Morrissey-Berru may impact the LGBTQ+ employees of religious employers, but
religious organizations and employers should recognize that the ministerial exception
does not apply to every position within their organizations. Rather, it is limited to those
employees who truly perform religious duties. For example, the position of a school
janitor who is only present in the building outside of school hours and is not responsible
for transmitting the faith would likely not be considered ministerial in nature.

What steps can I take to get coverage for treatment of gender dysphoria?

1. First check to see if your health plan provides coverage for the type of treatment that
you want by getting a copy of the plan’s “Summary of Benefits and Coverage”.
2. Most insurance plans, both public and private, have detailed requirements that must
be met in order to obtain coverage. This is particularly true if you are trying to obtain
coverage for transition-related surgery. So, contact your health plan and request a copy
of the requirements for the treatment you are seeking.
3. Work with your therapists and doctors to make sure that you satisfy all the health
plan’s requirements. Documentation from your therapists and doctors is the most critical
factor in determining whether your treatment request will be approved.

4. Check what treatment requires pre-approval. In most cases, any surgery will require
pre-approval, and the plan may only pay if you use a surgeon that takes their plan.
5. If your treatment request is denied, find out the reasons for the denial, and, if you still
think that you qualify for the treatment, follow the plan’s appeal process. Usually there
will first be an internal appeals process, and, if you are not successful there, you can
sometimes appeal to an outside agency. Make sure that you adhere to the
deadlines—failure to meet a deadline can automatically end your ability to appeal.
6. Keep GLAD informed if you are denied treatment. GLAD may be able to offer
suggestions that can help you win your appeal. You can contact GLAD Answers at
GLAD Answers or by phone at 800-455-GLAD (4523).
7. Although more health plans now cover treatment for gender dysphoria, the process
for obtaining treatment, particularly for transition-related surgery, can be time
consuming and frustrating. A great deal of documentation is required and finding a
surgeon that does the type of surgery, and who is also acceptable to the health plan,
can be difficult.
8. Don’t be afraid to be persistent and to refile if you are denied.

 

How do I find a surgeon who will take my health insurance?

More and more surgeons who perform sex reassignment surgeries take health
insurance. You should research surgeons carefully to find one who is a good fit for
you. You can look at the list of in-network providers provided by your plan to see if
they are included or if it includes any surgeons in your area, and if not, you can
contact the surgeon’s office to determine if they accept your insurance. Most health
insurance plans require that you use a medical provider in your network, but if your
network does not include a surgeon who performs the services you need, you may be
able to go out of network if you seek prior authorization from your plan.

What should I do if I am being discriminated against in health care?

If you are being discriminated against by a health care facility or provider, you can file a
discrimination complaint with the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights (RICHR).
See the “Discrimination” Issue Area for detailed information about how to do this.

If you have a health care plan that is regulated by Office of the Health Insurance
Commissioner, you can file a complaint with that agency: https://ohic.ri.gov/consumer-

If you have a health care plan that is governed by Section 1557 of the ACA, you can file
a complaint with the federal Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil
Rights. For more information, see: https://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/filing-a-

If you have a self-funded health care plan through an employer with at least 15
employees, you can file a discrimination complaint with the federal Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC). For more information, see the “Discrimination” Issue
Area.

Resources

The New England Transgender Healthcare Consortium consists of providers from over
one dozen healthcare facilities in New England who are dedicated to improving access
to gender affirming. For more information, see: http://negendercare.org/.

Massachusetts Health Care Guidance: https://transhealthproject.org/resources/state-.

Health Insurance Medical Policies: https://transhealthproject.org/resources/health-

Legal Defense & Education Fund memo to plan administrators on liability for
transgender health care exclusions: https://transhealthproject.org/documents/48/2022-

Out2Enroll ACA plan information for 2022: https://out2enroll.org/2022-cocs/.

Transgender health care: https://www.healthcare.gov/transgender-health-care/.

HHS will enforce Section 1557 to protect LGBTQ+ people: https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/forefront.20210511.619811/.

National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE): Know Your Rights in Health Care:
https://transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/kyr/KYR-Healthcare-June2017.pdf.

NCTE Health Care Guide: https://transequality.org/health-coverage-guide.

EEOC Title VII discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people:
https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/protections-against-employment-discrimination-
based-sexual-orientation-or-gender.

Guide to Gender Surgeons: https://www.transhealthcare.org/.

Cases & Advocacy

To see Transgender Rights cases or advocacy which GLAD has been directly involved
with in Rhode Island, go to: Cases and Advocacy – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on
“Transgender Rights” and under “By Location” click on “Rhode Island.”

News & Press Releases

To see news and press releases about Transgender Rights in Rhode Island, go to:
News & Press Releases – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Transgender Rights”
and under “By Location” click on “Rhode Island.”