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Utah Supreme Court upholds rights of trans persons to change name and sex on state records

Andrew Cuomo

In a 4-1 decision announced on Thursday, Utah’s Supreme Court expanded transgender rights in the state by siding with two trans petitioners seeking court orders to change their names and sex on birth certificates.

In supporting its ruling, the court emphasized the importance of its decision affirming the right of the appellants, Sean Childers-Gray and Angie Rice, to have the ability to change their names and legal sex designations.

“Language matters,” the court said.

“We address appellants by their appropriate pronouns,” one footnote reads. “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.”

The court’s decision went beyond just granting the appellants their sex-change petitions. The court also ordered that going forward, “sex-change petitions should generally be granted unless sought for a wrongful or fraudulent purpose” and articulated a test and framework to grant them in the state.

Utahns who apply to change their legal sex designation, according to the ruling, “must present, at the minimum, evidence of appropriate clinical care or treatment for gender transitioning or change, provided by a licensed medical professional.”

The court was very clear in which circumstances such applications could be denied, saying in part, “a court may deny a sex-change petition only for ‘substantial reason’ backed by ‘factual support.'”

After obtaining a court order approving a sex or name change, Utahns can then apply to have their birth certificate changed.

“We are grateful that our clients’ right to live as their authentic selves has been upheld by the court,” Chris Wharton, attorney for the petitioners, said in a press release by Equality Utah. “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.”

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