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Utah Approves Gender Identity Changes on State Records; Tennessee Gov. Signs Bill Against Bathrooms

On May 9, the Utah Supreme Court ruled in a 4-1 decision that transgender Utahns can change their gender identities on state records such as drivers licenses and birth certificates.

The two plaintiffs, Sean Childers-Gray and Angie Rice, were previously denied by the district courts.

This ruling marks that going forward "sex-change petitions should generally be granted unless sought for a wrongful or fraudulent purpose," and stated that if a person undergoes medical treatment to transition, there is no legal reason to deny them to change state records to their preferred gender.

In fact, the Utah Supreme Court included in its ruling that the district courts had made a "legal mistake."

The court wrote: "'the procedure for obtaining a sex/gender marker change must be set forth by the legislature and the Court is prohibited from invading the legislature‘s prerogative on this issue. Thus, the request to change Petitioner‘s legal sex/gender marker is not a properly justiciable question."

The court recommended that the case be remanded and reversed as Rice and Childers-Gray applied name changes with "no wrongful or fraudulent purpose." They also both met the medical treatment standard the court laid out in its ruling.

Chris Wharton, Childers-Gray and Rice's attorney, expressed satisfaction with the court's ruling.

"We are grateful that our clients’ right to live as their authentic selves has been upheld by the court," he said. “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 ruling follows the failed bill that Utah State Rep. Kera Birkeland introduced in April of this year, HB302, which sought to ban transgender girls from participating in female sports in public schools.

Other anti-transgender measures have been introduced in other states like Texas, Alabama and Arkansas.

“That bill provides equal access to every student. It’s a reasonable accommodation,” Tennessee Governor Bill Lee told reporters last week. “It allows for accommodation for every student regardless of their gender. I think that’s a smart approach to the challenge.” The bill Lee signed prohibits transgender students from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity. Photo from: NBC News

On May 18, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed legislation that allows for any student, parent or employee of a public school district to be able to sue for monetary damage "for all psychological, emotional, and physical harm suffered" by allowing transgender people to use the same locker rooms and bathrooms as other cisgender students. This also extends to allowing legal action to be taken if any student is required to sleep in the same space as the opposite sex at birth (regardless of gender identity).

The American Civil Liberties Union has said that the legislation violates equal protection rights and expects the law will be challenged in court.

“Transgender students should be treated with respect and dignity, just like everyone else,” ACLU of Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg said in a statement. “Governor Lee’s decision to sign this bill sends the opposite message -– that students should be able to discriminate against a group of their classmates by avoiding sharing public spaces with them, and sue their schools if they are prevented from doing so.”


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