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Utah Supreme Court Affirms Right of Transgender Individuals to Update Their Sex

May 7, 2021

by Joel McDonald

The Utah Supreme Court issued an opinion yesterday in the matter of the legal sex change of Angie Rice and Sean Childers-Gray, affirming the right of transgender individuals to update their sex on legal documentation. The opinion states, “A person has a common-law right to change facets of their personal legal status, including their sex designation.”

Angie Rice and Sean Childers-Gray began their legal battle 2016 when an Ogden judge denied their application to update their gender identity on their driver’s licenses and other documents. While they were able to update their names to reflect their identities, their legal documentation continued to identify them by the sexes they were assigned at birth.

“Affirmation welcomes and applauds the commonsense ruling by the Utah Supreme Court,” said Affirmation President Nathan Kitchen. “We congratulate Angie Rice and Sean Childers-Gray on winning their case and thank them for the sacrifices they’ve made to advance equality and equity for transgender individuals in Utah. There is no doubt that this ruling will have a positive impact on the lives of transgender current and former Latter-day Saints.”

Affirmation Vice President Rebecca Solen added, “We are happy that the court recognized the importance of self-identifying. This ruling will go a long way to help a lot of people to live their lives authentically.”

“It is a basic human right to self-determine one’s own gender identity and presentation,” shared Laurie Lee Hall, former senior vice president of Affirmation. “It is vital to a healthy life to have identification documents that are congruent with one’s own lived experience. I am grateful that the Utah Supreme Court has decided in favor of the state’s transgender citizens to be truly valued and recorded authentically.”

This ruling comes amid an intense push by many state legislatures to prevent transgender individuals, particularly youth, from accessing medical and other resources needed to live happy, healthy, and productive lives. Affirmation’s mission includes promoting the self-determination of individuals of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions. Affirmation continues to denounce any intention to erase the rights and protections of transgender, queer, and intersex persons.

Note: There is a difference between sex and gender. In the footnotes of the opinion, the court notes that “language matters,” stating that, “…the legislature has indicated in another context that in Utah, ‘sex‘ means gender… We recognize that these terms do ―have distinct meanings. ‘Gender‘ generally refers to a social construct based on psychological characteristics that classify an individual as feminine or masculine, while ‘sex‘ generally refers to biological sex as evidenced by chromosomes, genitals, and other physical characteristics.”

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