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Transgender bills taking shape as Utah lawmakers begin session

Utah State Capitol. (Photo: Eddie Collins/KUTV)
Utah State Capitol. (Photo: Eddie Collins/KUTV)
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A transgender-related bill limiting when birth certificates can be amended has been unveiled on Utah’s Capitol hill ahead of the 2023 legislative session.

Meanwhile, another measure banning gender reassignment surgery for minors now also includes regulations on puberty blockers, under a new version of the bill that was just made public.

Senate Bill 93, sponsored by Sen. Dan McCay (R-Riverton), would prevent kids from having their birth certificates amended until they turn 18.

“I think you’ll see Utah, and you see other states kind of wrestle with the same question, is how do we protect our kids?” said McCay in an interview Monday with KUTV 2News, one day before the start of the 2023 legislative session.

McCay said this is a question the Legislature should decide – not the courts. But his bill could end up there anyway through a lawsuit that would cost taxpayers money.

“This issue, because it’s front and center right now, I imagine that there will likely be litigation over it,” said McCay.

That’s what happened last year when lawmakers passed House Bill 11, which banned transgender athletes from competing in girls’ sports. The ban is on hold while litigation against it proceeds.

McCay’s birth certificate bill is not the only transgender-related bill this session. Lawmakers are also set to consider Senate Bill 16, sponsored by Sen. Mike Kennedy (R-Alpine), which would ban gender reassignment surgery for minors.

Under an updated version of that bill, puberty blockers would also effectively be banned. That medication, which transgender teens can take to temporarily suppress puberty, would not be allowed for anyone who has not already received hormonal transgender treatment, according to a substitute draft proposed by Kennedy.

Sue Robbins with Equality Utah said measures dealing with transgender youth are disappointing.

“We’re a parents’ rights state, and we’re coming out and trying to take away those parents’ rights,” Robbins said. “Parents are working with doctors and mental health professionals to do what’s best for their children, so why do we need laws to interfere with that when we already have the right professionals in place?”

Last year, Idaho Republicans killed similar transgender measures over concerns about interfering with parents’ decision-making. How these new bills will play out in Utah remains to be seen.

“I think these are based in unfounded fears,” said Robbins, “and we need to work to move forward.”

Gov. Spencer Cox, who has been outspoken on transgender issues in the past, last week signaled support for banning gender reassignment surgery for minors, and he said puberty blockers required a "serious look." Cox's spokesperson said Monday the governor's office is reviewing McCay's birth certificate bill.

Another proposed transgender-related bill this session from Sen. Todd Weiler (R-Woods Cross) would require a school to inform parents if there is a school-wide practice or policy of calling a student by a different name or referring to them by a different pronoun.

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The legislative session begins Tuesday at 10 a.m.

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