Utah Supreme Court has not ruled on transgender gender marker change cases in two years

On January 17 of this year, it will have been two years since Angie Rice and Sean Childers-Gray nervously stood before judges on the Utah Supreme Court, hoping for a ruling to overturn denials in their efforts at getting a gender marker changed on their driver licenses.

What were once routinely approved, according to attorney Chris Wharton, were now a hit-and-miss proposition determined by which judge was assigned a case.

In 2016, Ogden Judge Noel Hyde allowed for name changes for Rice and Childers-Gray but said a lack of clarity in state code prevented him from granting their gender identity changes.

In 2017, Third Judicial District Court in West Jordan, Judge Bruce C. Lubeck, ruled that despite allowing Salt Lake City teen Lex Rigby to change his name on his birth certificate, he could not change his birth certificate to reflect his male identity.

These and another case are awaiting the Utah State Legislature to clarify if and when gender can be changed on a birth certificate.

Republican Sen. Todd Weiler, who sees the ambiguity in state law around the issue of gender marker changes as a question for lawmakers rather than judges, ran a bill last year which would have spelled out guidelines for such a change. But anti-LGBTQ Rep. Merrill Nelson of Grantsville proposed an opposing bill that disallowed any changes on a person’s birth certificate unless a substantive mistake was made by the doctor ascribing one’s gender.

Neither legislator has said they will bring the issue to the upcoming Utah Legislative Session.

In the first nine months of 2019, 71 people successfully obtained gender marker changes, down from 83 in 2018. Courts also granted three “X” designations for those who identify as neither male nor female, according to data from Utah’s Office of Vital Records and Statistics. Q

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