Governor: Gender changes should be allowed on documents

FILE - In this Sept. 12, 2018, file photo, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert speaks during a news conference at the Utah state Capitol in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday that people who want to change their gender on public documents should have a process to do it.

His comment runs counter to a lawmaker’s proposal that would block transgender and other people from making changes to birth certificates.

It’s among a number of hot-button issues that await the Legislature when it convenes Monday. Herbert, a Republican, addressed several during his monthly televised news conference on KUED-TV.


Utah officials have long allowed gender changes on official documents, but the process hasn’t been consistent.

GOP Rep. Merrill Nelson said he hopes to ensure “clarity” by requiring that birth certificates carry genders determined at birth.

The bill has been condemned by the group Equality Utah as targeting transgender people.

Herbert said people should be able to change their documents as needed.

“I think most people would welcome it. I think there’s no reason why we should stop it,” he said.


Republican Rep. Cheryl Acton wants a ban on most abortions after 15 weeks, a change that would be among the most restrictive in the country if it passes.

It could also set up a costly legal battle because the Legislature’s own attorneys have warned that the restriction is likely unconstitutional.

Herbert hasn’t decided whether he would sign the bill but said “some fights are worth having.”

“I’m a pro-life guy. When you hear heartbeat after six weeks it should give us pause, are we doing the right thing?” he said.


Medicaid expansion was passed by Utah voters in November — after years of failure at the Legislature.

Herbert said the state should implement expansion rather than repeal the ballot measure. However, he also echoed lawmakers’ concerns that a sales tax increase approved as part of the ballot measure won’t cover the full cost.

“There needs to be some modifications, at least from the fiscal standpoint,” Herbert said.

He didn’t advocate any specific changes.

Supporters of expansion who are worried that conservative lawmakers might make major changes are planning a rally as the legislative session opens Monday.


There were an unprecedented number of issues on the ballot last year. Voters also bucked the GOP-dominated Legislature on issues such as medical marijuana.

Now, some lawmakers are looking at the process involved in getting an issue on the ballot, which currently requires signatures from specific numbers of people around the state.

Herbert said the process may need some fine tuning, in particular a provision that lets people remove their signatures from petitions supporting measures.

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