Metro Weekly

Utah Republican wants to block transgender people from changing their birth certificates

Rep. Merrill Nelson's legislation, if passed, would effectively erase a transgender person's identity in official records

Merrill Nelson — Photo: Facebook

A Republican lawmaker in Utah has filed legislation that, if passed, would prevent transgender people in the state from changing gender on their birth certificate.

The move would effectively erase a transgender person’s identity, forcing them to legally remain their assigned sex at birth on official documents.

Rep. Merrill Nelson’s bill, HB153, defines gender at birth and removes the ability for judges in Utah to grant a transgender person the ability to change their official records, Utah Policy reports.

Nelson argued that the legislation was necessary to prevent alterations to birth certificates — which he called a “vital state record” — and called any attempts to change a person’s gender on their birth certificate “a fiction.”

“HB153 is based on the scientific and medical fact that an individual’s sex is determined at conception by chromosomal make-up and is not subject to change or self-determination later in life,” he wrote in a statement to FOX 13. “By contrast, gender identification, based on one’s self-perception, may vary. While gender identification is subjective, a person’s sex, as male or female, is determined objectively by science and medicine. The birth certificate records ‘sex,’ not ‘gender identity.’ Therefore, gender identity should not be used to change the sex designation on the birth certificate.”

Nelson said that he introduced the bill to the legislature not out of hatred for transgender people, but purely to maintain the integrity of birth certificates.

However, Nelson’s own website suggests an animus towards policies that protect transgender people.

Listed under his proposals for Utah’s education system, Nelson slams federal intervention in state education policy, including protecting bathroom access for transgender students.

“As a state, we should resist federal efforts to control our education policy,” he writes. “For example, the federal government has no business dictating school testing, school lunch menus, or directing cross-gender use of bathrooms and locker-rooms.” (Emphasis Metro Weekly‘s.)

Equality Utah executive director Troy Williams said in a statement that Nelson’s legislation was “an egregious step backward for transgender Utahns. It is transgender-phobic legislation.”

He added: “In 2015 the Utah Legislature crafted the state’s first legal protections for transgender Utahns. However, this legislation recklessly maligns the dignity of the transgender community. It is an egregious violation of the spirit and tone of Utah’s ‘Fairness for All’ model.”

Speaking to the Salt Lake Tribune, Williams said: “Nelson has made zero effort to get to know the transgender community and understand the complexities of their lives and yet he’s willing to legislate in a way that harms them.”

Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at

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