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LGBTQ Advocates Pledge To Fight Proposal To Bar Gender Changes To Birth Certificates

Austen Diamond for KUER
Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville

A new proposal at the Utah legislature would bar individuals from changing the sex listed on their birth certificates, a move LGBTQ advocates are calling “cruel” and “discriminatory.”

Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, is runningthe bill, which was made public on Tuesday. He argues that birth certificates are a “vital state record” and their “accuracy and integrity” should be preserved.


Nelson said a person’s sex is determined at birth based on reproductive organs, but acknowledges that for some, the gender they identify as might change.


But he argues that shouldn’t affect what’s on someone’s birth certificate.


“A person’s sex is no more subject to change than a person’s age,” said Nelson, who also works as an attorney for Kirton McKonkie, the law firm which represents the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “While some may feel younger or look younger, that would not justify a change of the person’s actual date of birth.”


A federal judgestruck down a similar law in Idaho last year.


LGBTQ advocacy groups including Equality Utah are pledging to fight the proposal.


“This bill would effectively tell transgender Utahns, ‘you don’t legally exist and we won’t let you affirm your gender identity,’” said Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah.


“Having the liberty to affirm your identity documents is essential to the lives of transgender Utahns,” Williams said. Birth certificates can be revised for several reasons, including adoptions, and “it’s common for transgender people to have the freedom to do the same.”


Nelson said his proposal is “not motivated by any form of ‘phobia’ or hate, but only by a desire to maintain the integrity of the birth certificate and to provide clarity and consistency to an otherwise ambiguous statute that has produced conflicting results.”


Williams said Nelson’s bill is a “direct reaction” to another proposal by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, which would streamline the process for changing a person’s sex on legal documents.


The bill was introduced in the 2018 legislature but did not pass. Williams said he is working with Weiler to bring it back this year.


Weiler said in a tweet that birth certificates are commonly altered in adoption cases and he doesn’t understand “Nelson’s logic” in pushing the legislation.

Nicole Nixon holds a Communication degree from the University of Utah. She has worked on and off in the KUER Newsroom since 2013, when she first joined KUER as an intern. Nicole is a Utah native. Besides public radio, she is also passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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