Utah Supreme Court Upholds Transgender Rights

SALT LAKE CITY - On Thursday, May 6, the Utah Supreme Court ruled today In Re Gray and Rice (20170046) 2021 UT 13, and confirmed the right of transgender Utahns to change the name and gender marker on their birth certificates. Attorneys Chris Wharton, Kyler O'Brien, and Beth Jennings (Wharton O'Brien) Troy Booher and Beth Kennedy (Zimmerman Booher) will joint plaintiffs Angie Rice (she/her) and Sean Childers-Gray (he/him) in a press conference outside the Matheson Court House today at 11am to discuss the impact of the ruling.

Equality Utah, the Utah Pride Center and TEA of Utah will also be in attendance.

“We are grateful that our clients’ right to live as their authentic selves has been upheld by the court.” stated attorney Chris Wharton, “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 day is about Angie and Sean, but will also have profound significance on transgender Utahns. The case has been under advisement by the Utah Supreme Court for almost 3.5 years. Notably, there was no opposing party, and no challenge to existing Utah law. The case only challenges the district judge’s erroneous rulings. The Utah Attorney General's Office was ordered to file an amicus brief and essentially agreed with Angie and Sean on the merits (the state's first published opinion supporting transgender rights).

Equality Utah Executive Director Troy Williams stated, “It has been an unprecedented year for transgender Americans. Over 30 states introduced legislation to restrict the freedom of transgender youth. But here in Utah, we chart a different path. The Utah Legislature rejected two anti-transgender bills, and today, the Utah Supreme Court has upheld transgender rights to live freely as their authentic selves. This is ‘equality under the law’ in practice, right here in Utah.”

TEA of Utah executive director Candice Metzler stated, “Today, the State of Utah has taken a step closer to that ideal of ‘becoming a more perfect Union.’ We have chosen to create a system that actually serves all who use it. We have chosen the health of our community by sending a clear message that transgender, intersex, and gender-diverse people have a place in our communities and state. This decision will go a long way in helping such people know they belong.”


District Cout Rulings: In Ms. Rice’s case, the court ruled that “[t]he procedure for obtaining a sex/gender marker change must be set forth by the legislature” before they may be considered by the court. The court ruled that it was “prohibited from invading the legislature’s prerogative on this issue.”

In Mr. Childers-Gray’s case, the court reached the same conclusion, stating that the petition for sex designation change must be denied “because there is no statute in the State of Utah which sets forth either standards or procedures under which the court may consider such a request.” The court ruled that the lack of legislative guidance rendered the question of whether to change a sex designation to be a nonjusticiable political question under Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 209 (1962).

* December 14, 2016 - Final Ruling and Order in the Childers-Gray case and Rice cases
* January 9, 2017 - Notice of Appeal filed
* May 23, 2017 - Opening Brief filed
* January 8, 2018 - Oral Argument held
* December 5, 2019 - Attorney General Amicus Brief filed
* January 6, 2020 - Supplemental Brief filed