University of Utah pro bono legal program helps transgender Utahns change their names and gender marker status

Salt Lake City (ABC4) – After recent Utah legislation that limits the athletic activities of transgender youth, law students at University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law are working to provide free legal help to transgender Utahns.

As part of S.J. Quinney College of Law’s Pro Bono Initiative, the Rainbow Law Clinic provides free legal help over zoom ever second Wednesday of every month to members of the LGTBQIA+ community. The Rainbow Law Clinic is providing free legal help with legal name and gender marker changes. They also offer legal help to transgender people in employment, family law, and more.

Caisa Royer is a member of the Rainbow Law Clinic team, which is made up of a mix of volunteer attorneys and volunteer law students. Royer commented that the team “aims to answer legal questions from community members surrounding LGBTQIA+ legal issues, including name/gender marker changes, employment, family law, estate planning” and more, while “the majority of the legal questions received at the Rainbow Law program surround legal name and gender marker changes.”

In response to asking why they saw this work as important, Royer said “We refer to Rule 6.1 of the American bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which instills in every attorney the responsibility to provide pro bono legal services to those who would otherwise be unable to afford such legal support.”

Participants in the Thursday, March 31st march on the Utah State Capital for the Transgender Day of Visibility spoke on why legal help is so important for those who identify as transgender. After giving a speech telling their story to the assembled crowd, Percy Cornero said that a legal name change “is a validation of who transgender people really are.” Percy changed their “dead name”—the name they were assigned at birth— to their middle name, and commented that “it is difficult for transgender people to go placed like the airport and the doctor and ask to be called a name different from my legal name.” While this may seem like a small inconvenience for those who wish to change their name, Percy remarked that their preferred name represents an important part of how they want to express themselves.

Another speaker at the march named Dallin Lovegood commented to ABC4 reporters saying that “oftentimes the names given to transgender people at birth are put into a gender binary” which translates to how they are treated in society. A legal name change, according to Lovegood, allows transgender people to be able to say “Hey, I understand I was born into this side of the gender binary, but my identity is here. A name is part of that.”

Dallas Rivas who participated in the organization of the march on March 31st remarked that he changed his legal name “as soon as he could.” He remarked that his assigned legal name “was not important to him” because it did not correspond with how he felt about his own gender.

Those interested in getting brief free legal help from the Rainbow Law Clinic such as a name change or gender marker change can find their contact info here. The S.J. Quinney College of Law’s Pro Bono Initiative also provides a variety of other pro bono legal services to those who have legal needs not related to being a member of the LGBTQ+ community.