A controversial bill that would stop transgender people from changing their sex designation on their birth certificate is dead, at least at this time.
Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, substituted his original HB153 to one that would keep the birth certificate unchanged, but allow a transgender person to get a driver’s license, or other state I.D., with their gender changed to the way they are living their lives.
And that bill was scheduled for a committee hearing, before Nelson – again under pressure from Utah’s LGBTQ community – decided to drop the bill all together.
He told UtahPolicy – which first reported on HB153 – that he and Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Bountiful, decided to hold both their bills and have a larger, more expansion, discussion over the interim about transgender issues over the summer and fall.
Weiler had a bill (not yet introduced this session) that would have made it easier for transgender people to change their sex designation on their birth certificates – or just the opposite of Nelson’s bill.
Nelson said that the whole issue of how to deal with transgender people, both in private rights and public settings should be addressed, like:
-- How transgender people can be accommodated in public areas, like public and school restrooms.
-- How are transgender folks dealt with in a jail setting and prison.
And many other situations that have been discussed before, but no decisions made by the Legislature.
Weiler told UtahPolicy: “This is a difficult issue with a lot of implications. I ran a bill last year and encountered multiple obstacles. I took it to interim, and was unable to overcome them.”
He added: “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.”
Troy Williams, head of Equality Utah, said that upon seeing Nelson’s the substitute bill Wednesday evening, he contacted Nelson saying his LGBTQ equal rights group would oppose the new bill.
“It still would be unconstitutional,” said Williams, “for it would deny equal rights to (LGBTQ) people, and harm very vulnerable people in our community.”
Williams praised Nelson for seeing the gay community’s concerns and agreeing to pull the bill.
LGBTQ advocates said if such “anti-gay” laws are passed in Utah, the state could see the kind of backlash, boycotts and such, that North Carolina has seen.
Nelson said he was contacted by several pro-family groups, who have concerns about the eroding nature of the American family.
Nelson is an attorney in the private law firm used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but said the church had nothing to do with his sponsoring HB153.
Even before the 2019 Legislature started, GOP Gov. Gary Herbert said that he didn’t see the need for such a law – in essence, that transgender people in Utah may still go to court and ask a judge for an official order allowing them to change the sex on their birth certificate.
That greatly undercut Nelson’s efforts. He held the original version of the bill – which stopped courts from issuing such orders, and did not contain the driver’s license provisional change.
But even Nelson’s substitute bill didn’t satisfy critics, like Williams and other LGBTQ civil rights advocates.
Nelson said he believes he, Weiler and others can reach some common sense solutions, that can bring fairness to all involved, and still solve issues that are critical to state issues as well.