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Controversial Bill To Ban Transgender People From Changing Birth Certificates Placed On Hold

Austen Diamond / KUER

Two competing proposals dealing with the process of changing a person’s sex on legal documents were abandoned by Utah lawmakers on Thursday.

The first, a controversial bill sponsored by Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, would have prevented transgender Utahns from changing their birth certificates to reflect their gender identity.

The bill was first unveiled last month to loud opposition from LGBTQ advocates. Nelson had argued that birth certificates are “vital state records” and their “accuracy and integrity” should be preserved.

Nelson introduced a substitute bill Wednesday evening ahead of a public hearing, but early Thursday morning the bill had already been pulled from the committee’s agenda.

The Grantsville Republican said in a text message he planned to come back to the issue later this year “for further interim study of the full range of related issues beyond just preservation of the birth certificate.”

LGBTQ rights advocates declared victory over the decision to hold Nelson’s proposal.

“We’re so excited,” said Equality Utah Executive Director Troy Williams. “Rep. Nelson called me this morning and we had a long conversation. He really listened to our concerns.”

Williams said the bill violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection clause and would have been harmful to transgender individuals.

He said public pressure made a difference in the decision to hold it.

“This is really a testament to what happens when people who are concerned get involved,” Williams said. “Your phone calls, your text messages, your face-to-face meetings with lawmakers has an impact.”

Another bill sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, is also on hold. In 2018, Weiler unsuccessfully ran legislation to streamline the process for changing a person’s sex on identification and other legal documents.

In a statement, Weiler said it was “a difficult issue with a lot of implications.” After his bill failed last year, Weiler said he took it to an interim committee to try to find solutions but was again unsuccessful.

“Rep. Nelson heard my bill in interim and wanted to go in a different direction. He ran into many of the same obstacles. This issue is not going away. The state, at some point, has to adopt a policy,” Weiler said.

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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