Gender identity bill to return to the Utah State Legislature

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that would give transgender people a process to legally change their gender identity is poised to be reintroduced in the Utah State Legislature.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, told FOX 13 he plans to make some modifications to the bill in hopes of getting it passed during the 2019 legislative session. A version of the bill earlier this year had social conservatives complaining it went too far, and LGBTQ rights groups saying it didn’t go far enough.

“The fact of the matter is the legislature has never weighed in on this,” Sen. Weiler said Monday. “We’ve kind of just let everything happen without any policy, without any law.”

Right now, a transgender person can petition the courts to change their gender marker to reflect what they identify as. However, it’s up to a judge to decide. Some judges have granted gender identity changes without any problem, but a handful have refused. The Utah Supreme Court right now is deliberating a case involving those judges who won’t do it.

“There’s no guidelines. We’ve told the courts you have this power and we’ve given them no criteria,” Sen. Weiler said.

After transgender rights activists protested his initial idea of making the legal age 18 for a gender identity change, Sen. Weiler said he is now considering dropping it to 15 or 16, so a driver’s license doesn’t have to be amended.

“By the time they’re 16 this issue is probably ripe for judicial consideration,” he said. “I think quite frankly, it’s fair the birth certificate show that it’s amended.”

That is likely to upset LGBTQ rights groups who have sought younger ages and birth certificates without an asterisk, while possibly appeasing social conservatives and some lawmakers.

Troy Williams, the director of Equality Utah, said transgender people must be included in any bill negotiations.

“Any proposal that directly impacts trans youth must be approached with care and compassion. Our laws must honor the dignity and personal liberty of transgender Americans. We look forward to working with him toward that end,” he said.

The proposed bill will be discussed at the Utah State Legislature’s Judiciary Interim Committee next week.