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Utah legislature may tweak Supreme Court ruling on transgender rights

Posted at 3:11 PM, Sep 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-15 19:02:44-04

SALT LAKE CITY  — The Utah State Legislature took up the issue of transgender people and the gender marker on their birth certificates.

A hearing was called on Wednesday before the Health & Human Services Interim Committee to discuss an historic Utah Supreme Court ruling. The committee's co-chair, Rep. Merrill Nelson, wanted to know if they should accept the ruling or modify it.

The state's top court ruled in favor of Sean Childers-Gray and Angie Rice, who sought to have the markers on their birth certificates changed to match their gender identity. While most judges across Utah routinely grant such requests for transgender people, there have been a few instances where people are refused a gender marker change.

That led to judicial conflict and the Utah Supreme Court ruled, setting a uniform process for a transgender person to get their official state identification changed.

"It's in our hands to decide at this point if we're content with the status of law," said Rep. Nelson, R-Grantsville, adding: "Or if we as policy makers want to modify the statute."

He solicited written responses from Utah's Driver License Division, the Utah Department of Health, the Utah State Board of Education, as well as the LGBTQ rights groups Equality Utah and Transgender Education Advocates of Utah.

The government agencies said they may need some kind of gender marker for record-keeping purposes and the LGBTQ rights groups urged the committee to leave the ruling alone.

Prior to the Court's decision, the legislature attempted to both make it easier and make it harder for transgender people to change their state IDs. Bills on the subject would repeatedly fail.

One lawmaker on the committee questioned why they were even willing to wade into it now that the Court ruled.

"If I may interject and just ask this blunt question, Rep. Nelson?" said Sen. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi. "Are you comfortable with the definition that the Supreme Court came up with?"

"My personal opinion, again I’m here to gather input," Rep. Nelson replied. "I disagree with the outcome of the case. I don’t think it’s sound public policy to equate biological sex with gender identity. I think they’re two different things and as a matter of state law we should go back to bedrock. Scientific bedrock, medical bedrock, Biblical bedrock."

The committee took no action after the presentation, but it is possible a bill could still emerge in the 2022 legislative session.

Outside the hearing, Dr. Candice Metzler of Transgender Education Advocates of Utah said the ruling should stand because it is working for transgender people who seek to change their identification to match their identity.

"The change since the Supreme Court ruling has been really amazing," she told FOX 13. "It’s given people the ability to function in our society which we require birth certificates, we require IDs."