Is gender fact or choice? Controversial bill would prohibit gender changes on Utah birth certificates

Composite image | Undated photo of Utah State Capital Building in Salt Lake City courtesy of Wikipedia; photo of Utah birth certificate courtesy of, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A bill filed for the upcoming legislative session would define gender at birth and prohibit Utahns from changing it on official county birth records.

L-R: Rep. Merill Nelson, R-Grantsville, and Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, date not specified | Photos courtesy of Merill Nelson and Ralph Okerlund, St. George News

HB 153, the Utah Vital Statistics Act, is sponsored by Rep. Merill Nelson, R-Grantsville, and Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe.

The proposed bill says that once a birth certificate is complete, only the name or a mistake made at the time the document was created can be changed.

It also requires that infants be assigned a gender at birth, or in some rare cases would allow for a child’s sex to be listed as undetermined and updated in time.

What it does not allow for is any change to the birth certificate based on gender identity, even if gender reassignment takes place later in life.

“This is about recording the facts present at the time of birth; nothing else,” Okerlund told St. George News.

As it stands now, anyone born in Utah can change their gender assignment if it’s approved by state, federal or a Canadian court.

If HB 153 passes, Utahns won’t be able to change anything else without submitting an application accompanied by a judge’s order to the state registrar – who then can either approve or deny the application at their discretion.

The ACLU of Utah said in a statement that the proposed bill is “completely out of step with science, medicine, and respect for basic human dignity.”

The organization cited two federal rulings that said any law that prohibits people from updating the listed sex on a birth certificate “violates the Equal Protection clause of U.S. Constitution.”

Similar to North Carolina’s infamous “Bathroom Bill,” the ACLU warns that if the “vindictive bill” passes, it could place a “dangerous national spotlight” upon Utah.

Okerlund said the bill has little to do with gender or the decisions individuals make but instead has to do with making an accurate record of the child’s birth.

“The birth certificate records the facts at the time of the birth, and other than situations where gender cannot be determined, those facts do not change, regardless of the decision made later in life,” he said.

The purpose is simple, he continued, and is meant to “clear up any ambiguity by listing the facts present when the birth takes place.”

The ACLU disagrees, saying that instead of furthering any rational governmental interest, the bill “unnecessarily targets transgender, non-binary and intersex individuals,” and warned that if it passes, “unnecessary economic losses, potential boycotts and inevitable lawsuits,” will follow.

“It’s a matter of fact, not of gender,” Okerlund said.

Transgender issues are not isolated to Utah, or even to the United States.

In a recent Japan Supreme Court ruling upheld a 2004 law which “effectively requires transgender people to be sterilized before they can have their gender changed on official documents,” according to an article by the Associated Press published Friday.

The unanimous decision said the law was constitutional and designed to “reduce confusion in families and society.”

Under current Japanese law, anyone wishing to register a gender change must have their original reproductive organs removed and replaced with reproductive organs “that resemble the genital organs” of the gender they want to register.”

More than 7,800 Japanese have had their genders changed officially.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Read more: See all St. George News reports and opinions on Utah Legislature 2019 issues


Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.


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  • ladybugavenger January 25, 2019 at 2:39 pm

    The world is going to hell. If you need a bill, and call it controversial, to determine a man has a penis and sperm and a woman has a vagina and eggs then this world is crazy and I dont what I want to be part of it. The controversy is in your head, heart, and soul. I’m ready for Jesus, but he has me here day after day to watch this madness.

    Go Rams!

    • ladybugavenger January 25, 2019 at 2:42 pm

      Typos are from not proofreading. This samsung s8 is junk and hard to type on.

  • bikeandfish January 25, 2019 at 2:51 pm

    So the obvious compromise is requiring birth certificates to include lines for changes to sex/gender without erasing the birth information. That seems fair given almost every legal document requires birth certificate verification, especially under newer federal mandates. Denying either normal changes to a birth certificate or aforementioned compromise inherently limits the legality of gender/sex reassignment. If this isn’t intended as an oblique attack on transgendered and intersex individuals than a compromise needs to be made.

    If we were really concerned about these issues we would first fully eliminate a doctor’s discretion to assign sex/gender at birth for intersex individuals without consultation with parents. Doctors can still subjectively assign birth for these citizens (about 1% of live births) without parental consent in many states.

  • Brian January 25, 2019 at 3:11 pm

    This is easy, make the “Gender” line have two options:

    Gender: XX
    Gender: XY

    Yes, there are exceptions to the XX (female) and XY (male) pattern, but very few people are affected by them and I haven’t heard of any correlation between those syndromes and people who view their gender as different from their chromosomes.


    • bikeandfish January 25, 2019 at 3:48 pm

      So, let’s just use the intersex category of births for now. I just looked it up and the various non-binary births account for a total of 1.7% of all births nationwide. In 2016, there were 50,486 live births; that would mean 858 of those births were likely to be intersex. And that’s just one year. With our current state population that means upwards of 52,700 individuals in this state are likely intersex.

      Our national population is currently believed to be 328 million. If we extrapolate those previous figures, assuming the 1.7% is relatively constant, then we can predict roughly 5.6 million citizens were born intersex.

      So tell me again, how that is “very few”?

      But let’s deal with the ultimate flaw in your assessment. You are justifying your arguments off the chromosomal differentiation. But this is a legal issue that doesn’t use chromosomes to define sex/gender. It relies on a visual, superficial assessment of immature sex organs at the time of birth.

      The combination of those listed facts completely invalidates your argument as presented.


      • Comment January 25, 2019 at 7:36 pm

        I’m gonna call bs on your stats there b+f. Actual intersex defects are extremely rare. Genital anomalies maybe not as rare, but they are still either male or female, clearly. But you saying 1.7% of births are “intersex” is a total load of BS. This is one issue where you always wander into full-on lefty nutter world, as demonstrated by past discussions.

        • bikeandfish January 26, 2019 at 12:04 am

          Not a nutter, a follower of biological sciences.

          Paywall. But its summary states:

          “1955 to the present for studies of the frequency of deviation from the ideal male or female. We conclude that this frequency may be as high as 2% of live births.”

          That includes the totality of all intersex genotypes and phenotypes, not just the commonly cited “ambiguous genitalia”. As I’ve cited many times with you, there are upwards of twenty total phenotypes and genotypes on the spectrum between classic sex typings. Most are include characteristics that affect individuals after birth during sexual maturation. And those are just the ones we currently know and have figures on. We even know of several variations without population estimates.

          You haven’t cited any evidence or science once in your daliances with psuedoscientific claims. Just yelling BS is lazy and doesn’t actually disprove or counter my fact based claims. We’ve been down this road multiple times and you fail to ever support your claims.

          You can stick to an antiquated view of sex but science moved on from that false paradigm a while ago. We know sexual characteristics exist on a spectrum between the common binary.

          • Comment January 26, 2019 at 12:18 pm

            I’m not gonna automatically believe some source that can’t even be linked here. But if that 1.7% is correct, and I’m not gonna assume that it is right now, then there are a lot more freaks of nature than I would have ever guessed.

            And if they can breed they have either a functional female or male anatomy. So for you to claim that even those are “intersex” sounds like a load of bs.

        • bikeandfish January 26, 2019 at 12:12 am

          That hyperlink randomly doesn’t work when attached. Even the UN cites it though:

        • KR567 January 26, 2019 at 3:31 am

          comments.. the stats you always put up on here are from scifi LOL ! and I call bs on your comment .. ok you better get back to the park and protest park benches !

    • tazzman January 25, 2019 at 5:27 pm

      Brian, ones gender is different from their sex. Gender is socially constructed. Sex is not. But besides that, there are those who actually dont fall precisely into Male and Female sex. As bike and fish points out, they are known as intersex. They used to be described using the anachronistic term of hermaphrodite.

      • ladybugavenger January 25, 2019 at 6:43 pm

        Have you met a hermaphrodite?

      • Comment January 25, 2019 at 7:50 pm

        A better term would be deformed or defective. If a creature doesn’t have functioning sex organs nature has just weeded that creature out of the gene pool, unless some massive scientific intervention(perversion) allows said creature to somehow breed. I believe such techniques are totally unethical. It’s either male, female, or malformed. That’s just the way it is. Nature is a cruel b—- like that, but all the leftist whining in the world won’t fix it or make it normal.

        • bikeandfish January 25, 2019 at 9:01 pm

          That’s a value judgement, not a scientific one. Intersex individuals haven’t been “wiped out of the gene pool” given they have been a constant part of human culture. Heck, many cultures actually celebrate them and honor them with unique roles in society.

          • Comment January 26, 2019 at 12:35 am

            Nature is it, b+f. If an organism is unfit to pass on its genetics that genetic line dies out. It has nothing to do with “value judgments”. You’ve said you’re a biologist but then act so clueless.

            I’d like your source on that 1.7% intersex figure if you’d be so kind.

          • bikeandfish January 26, 2019 at 11:34 am

            Already provided sources above.

            And the interex genes haven’t died out, that is self-evident. I’m thinking you actually don’t know much about genetics or biology given the way you describe scientific themes.

            The value based language you constantly use is obvious to anyone trained in modern science. In this case your statements about them being “deformed or defective” is the value statement. You often deploy teleological language in your description of such cases as this and evolution is not direction oriented in that way.

            And many intersex individuals can reproduce despite your constant claims to the contrary.

    • Utahguns January 25, 2019 at 7:11 pm

      You know it either XX or XY.
      Otherwise join the circus.

      • Comment January 25, 2019 at 7:55 pm

        B+F might pop in here and claim to be an XXYZ or some…

        • Utahguns January 25, 2019 at 8:23 pm

          I’m sure he’ll get around to it sooner or later….

        • bikeandfish January 25, 2019 at 8:39 pm

          Nope. Made it through puberty without any evidence that I was intersex. And plenty of empirical testing in adulthood to show I personally fit into one of the classic binary sex descriptors. Pretty boring that way.

          But I have known at least one intersex individual. Known a dozen or so transgendered locals and a few that transitioned. Statistically I’ve likely known more, I just don’t really care beyond protecting their basic liberties.
          You can see my thoughts about a fair compromise above. Seems to be an easy litmus test to determine if this is about safe guarding historic information (their claim) or politically controlling the sexual identities of citizens (my best guess).

          • Comment January 26, 2019 at 5:25 pm

            Why is it “Pretty boring that way”. Please explain, b+f. You sound disappointed that you have to “personally fit into one of the classic binary sex descriptors”.

  • ladybugavenger January 25, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    When a baby pops out of your penis, without scientific alterations including born with a vagina then sex changed with an added penis and a baby is born c section, , I’ll rethink this matter lol

  • Redbud January 25, 2019 at 5:41 pm

    Yeah unless the baby pops out with messed up genitals because of genes, deformity, etc… You are a boy if you have a penis, and a girl if you have vagina. There is absolutely no further debate or discussion.

  • Utahguns January 25, 2019 at 7:05 pm

    So there’s “Mr.” and “Miss” and “Mrs.”…..
    Does that mean there’s going to be “Mistake”?

  • Kathy January 25, 2019 at 11:20 pm

    A surgical gender re-assignment does not change a person’s DNA or their fingerprints. If they want to show that they prefer to identify as a different gender than they were born as these things might confuse things. Law enforcement might be perplexed if a crime is committed by or upon one of these people. Imagine finding a murder victim that presents as one gender but their DNA doesn’t align with that gender. Perhaps an amended document could be issued that would allow this change be noted. Otherwise a victim might go unidentified because the information does not jive with the physical evidence. But I would suggest that such a document be paid for by the person requesting the creation of the amended document.

    • Comment January 26, 2019 at 12:29 pm

      Believe me, it’ll never be an issue. The “trans community” calls them “gender confirmation surgeries” now, and these barbaric mutilations look nothing like organic genitalia. But I suppose if they weren’t actually autopsied or examined it could confuse people.

  • KR567 January 26, 2019 at 3:36 am

    some are born Republican and some born Democrat and some Independent and some come on here thinking they know everything. LOL !

  • jpff January 26, 2019 at 6:54 am

    “completely out of step with science, medicine, and respect for basic human dignity.”
    At first glance, one might take this statement from the aclu to be talking about looking at facts based upon science and medicine to understand that the terms male and female are set and defined. Somehow, the aclu is using that statement to justify going the opposite direction.
    Can you imagine, when a child is born, the doctor turning to the parents with a smile and telling them, “congratulations. When the dna results are back, we’ll let you know what you have.”

  • Real Life January 26, 2019 at 9:57 am

    Transgender is nothing more than a mental disorder that is catered to by crybaby liberals.

  • commonsense January 26, 2019 at 12:19 pm

    So, do we identify gender by phenotype (genital appearance ) or genotype (chtomosomes) or just a a choice we can arbitrarily make?
    To add to the confusion, there is true hermaphroditism where an individual has both male and female genitals and there is pseudo hermaphroditism where genitals are not consistent with the chromosomes. My sister-in-law is X0 (Turners syndrome) but appears female. Then there’s XYY (super males) who likely become criminals.
    Maybe we just take gender off of all legal documents. Let’s just say gender is a spectrum and certainly not two choices. LGBT individuals seems consumed with gender but it isn’t all that clear.

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