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Utah Attorney General weighs in on transgender birth certificate case

Posted at 2:10 PM, Dec 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-25 16:10:40-05

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Attorney General is weighing in on a thorny legal issue involving transgender people seeking to change their gender on birth certificates, while also declining to answer a specific question the Utah Supreme Court wants answered.

Sean Childers-Gray and Angie Rice sought to have the gender on their birth certificates change to match their names. Most judges in Utah allow it without any problem. However, a judge in Ogden refused to do it for them.

The Utah Supreme Court, which oversees judges in the state, has been asked to settle the issue. So far, the court has yet to issue a ruling.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes’ office was initially staying out of it. The office didn’t even show up to hearings in 2018 before the Utah Supreme Court. But the state’s top court recently ordered Reyes to weigh in.

“This appeal comes to the Court unopposed—no one contests the Appellants’ arguments or their underlying petitions for name- and sex- change orders,” deputy Utah Solicitor General Stanford Purser wrote.

He argued that the Court can weigh in without them, but declined to answer a question about whether Utah law on the subject is constitutional or not.

“Addressing the Court’s question would require the Attorney General’s Office to identify and articulate a specific separation-of-powers concern and then offer a counterargument explaining why the concern would not actually create a separation-of- powers violation,” Purser wrote. “That would place the Office in the difficult position of attacking and defending the statute.”

The Court has ordered Childers-Gray and Rice’s attorney to also weigh in before it renders a decision.

“We’re very pleased the attorney general’s brief is consistent with what we’ve argued the whole time,” their lawyer, Chris Wharton, told FOX 13. “Our clients appreciate the state’s position which respects their right to proceed and have this issue adjudicated and they’re eager to have a decision.”

A ruling by the Utah Supreme Court could have significant impact on LGBTQ rights in Utah. For the past two years, the Utah State Legislature has wrestled with gender marker changes on birth certificates and driver licenses in legislation for and against it, without any bill successfully passing.