‘Landmark’ ruling reached in Utah Supreme Court on transgender rights

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – After over three years, the Utah Supreme Court has reached a ruling affecting the right of transgender Utahns.

On Thursday, the Utah Supreme Court ruled In Re Gray and Rice, confirming the right of transgender Utahns to change the name and gender marker on their birth certificates and other state records.

In 2018, two Utah residents – Angie Rice and Sean Childers-Gray – called on Utah’s high court to overturn a decision that denied them the opportunity to change their sex designation on their driver’s license.

While they were granted the name change, according to the Associated Press, Second District Judge Noel Hyde said a lack of clarity in state law precluded him from granting a change in their gender identity.

On Thursday, the Utah Supreme Court ruled on the case, ordering judges to grant these changes, often known as “gender marker.”

“Language matters: We address appellants by their appropriate pronouns. The ease with which we could have misgendered them by using opposite-sex pronouns, despite their appearances and pronouncements, amplifies the importance of matching their government identification documents to their held-out identities,” reads the court’s opinion.

Justice Himonas, writing in the majority, says the district court was “mistaken” in their decision of saying Childers-Gray and Rice met needed requirements, but still denying their sex-change petitions.

To obtain these petitions, the court has ruled that a petitioner must show the petition is not made for any wrong or fraudulent purpose and “include objective evidence about the sex change reflecting the petitioner’s identity, at minimum, in the form of evidence of appropriate clinical care or treatment for gender transitioning or change, provided by a licensed medical professional.”

Childers-Gray and Rice “have met these requirements,” according to the court.

“Therefore, we reverse and remand this case with instructions to enter orders granting their sex-change petitions.”

Chief Justice Durrant agreed in part and dissented in part, but ultimately concurred in the judgment. Associate Chief Justice Lee dissented, saying that while he respects and will continue to respect transgender persons, this “is not a case about personal interactions or individual morality. It
is a case about government records, and the legal grounds for amending them.”

You can read the court’s full opinion below:

Click the square in the bottom right corner for full screen.

Supporters of the ruling expressed their appreciation Thursday morning.

Candice Metzler from Transgender Education Advocates of Utah says, “Today, the State of Utah has taken a step closer to that ideal of ‘becoming a more perfect Union.’ We have chosen to create a system that actually serves all who use it. We have chosen the health of our community by sending a clear message that transgender, intersex, and gender-diverse people have a place in our communities and state. This decision will go a long way in helping such people know they belong.”

“We are grateful that our clients’ right to live as their authentic selves has been upheld by the court.” says attorney Chris Wharton. “While the decision was a long time coming, there is nothing radical about the outcome—the right to be treated equally regardless of which county or judicial district you are in.”

“This has been the longest standing case under advisement of the Utah Supreme Court and its length on the docket has devalued and deferred the plaintiff’s lives. Being denied the right to update their legal gender marker forces transgender, intersex, non-binary and gender nonconforming individuals to out themselves before they’re ready. As a result, they may face ridicule, discrimination, or violence. We congratulate Angie and Sean for having the courage and the stamina to take on this fight which will have an immensely positive impact on a minority population. We also express deep gratitude to the legal team for their tireless efforts to make this happen,” says Dr. Robert Moolman, CEO/Executive Director at the Utah Pride Center.

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