A Milestone for Identity

The Utah Supreme Court hands U alums a major victory in transgender rights

In a landmark case argued by two S.J. Quinney College of Law alums, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that transgender Utahns have a legal right to change the name and gender marker on their birth certificates and other state records.

Chris Wharton JD’09 and Kyler O’Brien JD’16 represented Angie Rice and Sean Childers-Gray in the case. Prior to the ruling, judges within a single district were making differing decisions about applications. “If you drew the right judge, you could get a name and gender change with no problem. If you drew the wrong judge, you were stuck,” Wharton says. “That is shocking to most people in this country, to think that a law is not applied uniformly to you and your neighbor, depending on which area of the state you live in and what judge you drew.”

Rice and Childers-Gray are “kind of on cloud nine right now,” Wharton says. “Sean says he hasn’t slept this well in four years. This means that their applications are now going to be treated the same as hundreds or thousands of other gender- and name-change applications across the state.”

Wharton says the decision means that transgender Utahns no longer must worry about how their applications will be handled no matter what county or courtroom they find themselves in. “We have a clear, workable standard that has been in place since the statute was created back in the 1970s,” says Wharton. “And we now have clear instructions from the state’s supreme court about how that is going to be applied uniformly across the state.”


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