Utah name and gender marker laws and processes have changed more in the last two years than in the previous forty years combined. Here we’ll talk about what’s new, and what you need to know (but can’t easily find yourself).
Big change #1: Utah Supreme Court (2021)
Until 2021, the ability to legally correct your gender marker in Utah depended mostly on the judge assigned to the case. Judges had wide latitude to decide who should and shouldn’t be able to correct their gender marker, relying mostly on Utah’s name change laws from the 1970s.
In 2016, a judge in Ogden, Utah refused to grant gender marker change petitions from Angie Rice, a transgender woman, and Sean Childers-Gray, a transgender man. In May of 2021 the Utah Supreme Court ruled in their favor. Justice Deno Himonas authored the majority opinion, which stated “a person has a common-law right to change facets of their personal legal status, including their sex designation.” In other words, your identity belongs to you and you have the right to express it.
Big change #2: updated rules and forms (2022)
One of the most confusing parts of legally changing a name or gender marker is knowing which forms you need. While one form requires evidence of care, another requires a Department of Corrections certification—and don’t even get us started on a “Sex Change,” (a misnomer) that could include a name change or not.
SixFifty wanted to build a tool that eliminates all the guesswork and gives petitioners exactly what they need, and petitioned for a streamlined, less-restrictive process. By November of 2022, SixFifty, along with Equality Utah, Utah Legal Clinic and others helped lobby and get approved: updated eligibility requirements for gender marker changes, clearer information on required and optional forms, updated information about new birth certificates and more inclusive options on gender markers. The courts also published new, easier-to-use forms and instructions.
Little known fact #1: evidence of care
Evidence of care is important for gender marker change requests. There is no legal definition for “evidence of care,” and the decision on what is included is still ultimately left to judges to approve on a case-by-case basis. However, there are trends. Evidence of care submitted in most successful petitions has the following in common:
- The person signing the letter is your doctor and they state in writing that they have a doctor/patient relationship with you
- The doctor is either a physician or a therapist, licensed to practice medicine in the state of Utah
- The letter states how long your doctor has been treating you
- The doctor states that you have received appropriate clinical care for gender transition
- The doctor indicates that they make these statements under penalty of perjury
Little known fact #2: privacy options
People petitioning to change their name and/or correct their gender marker on their birth certificate may choose to request a new birth certificate instead of an amended birth certificate; otherwise their new birth certificate will contain the old information in addition to the new name and/or gender marker.
Also, applicants may request that the judge seal the case for their privacy.
Little known fact #3: fees and fee waivers
If you cannot afford the filing fee, you can ask the judge to waive it. The Utah legislature updated the fee waiver rules in 2022 with S.B. 87 Court Fee Waiver Amendments. Now, qualifications to receive a fee waiver include 1) receiving government assistance such as food stamps or medicaid, 2) receiving legal services from a nonprofit provider or a pro bono attorney through the Utah State Bar, and 3) an income level at or below 150% of the United States poverty level. Visit SixFifty’s Fee Waiver blog to learn more.
Little known fact #4: notice of hearing
Changing your name or gender marker in Utah requires you to appear in front of a judge at a court hearing. Notice of the hearing must be sent to all interested parties. An interested party is just a person or entity that would be affected by your name or gender marker change like a spouse or military commanding officer. If there are no interested parties in your case, you do not have to file a Notice of Hearing. SixFifty’s Identity 650 tool generates a Notice of Hearing for those who need one.
Little known fact #5: notice of pronouns
Petitioners can inform the court of their pronouns with a Notice of Pronouns document. This document does not legally change your gender marker, nor is it binding in any way. It just helps the judge and court personnel address you by the correct pronouns. A Notice of Pronouns can be filed in any case and is part of SixFifty’s Identity 650 tool.
Identity 650 is a free tool by SixFifty that generates all the paperwork required for a name change, gender marker change, or both, streamlining a complicated and ever-changing process. That paperwork includes:
- Department of Corrections Certification
- Utah District Court Cover Sheet
- Petition for Name and/or Gender Marker Change
- Proposed Order on Petition
- Notice of Hearing
- Notice of Pronouns
- Evidence of Care Template
- Motion and Order to Waive Fees
With the help of Former Justice Deno Himonas and his law students, this tool is more accessible, more streamlined, available in English and Spanish, and kept up-to-date as rules and forms change.
It takes a village
It takes a village of social justice warriors to improve public access to legal help and resources. SixFifty thanks Former Justice Deno Himonas and his students in the Disrupting Legal Regulatory Frameworks class at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law for gathering data about the current name and gender marker change process in Utah, and helping us build a new and improved tool.
Thank you to Attorney Chris Wharton, who represented Angie Rice and Sean Childers-Gray in their 2021 Supreme Court Case. Chris helped SixFifty build a deeper understanding of the legal processes and challenges—like when a judge might require someone to notify others about their hearing, or what doctors should consider when writing an “evidence of care” letter.
Thank you to Angela Elmore at the Utah Legal Clinic. Angela is passionate about gender marker corrections, and helped SixFifty fine tune an “evidence of care” template that doctors could use.
Thank you to our Gender Marker Day partners: Equality Utah, The Utah Pride Center, The University of Utah, Utah Legal Clinic, and Wharton O’Brien, PLLC.
Join our village
SixFifty believes that the law is for everyone. It belongs to us the same way that public parks and libraries belong to us. People should feel empowered by the law, not intimidated by it.
If you or your organization would like to help us improve access to the law, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.